The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new absorbable suture that breaks down in the body and does not need to be removed.

The suture is based on research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists.

MIT biology professor Anthony Sinskey says the material is stronger, more flexible and easier for surgeons to work with than what is currently in use. "It is very tissue friendly and less inflammatory, made from biological intermediates."

These biological intermediates are short, polyester chains of molecules that are extracted from genetically-engineered bacteria and then processed into longer threads.

The suture is the first of its kind to be manufactured from components made with recombinant DNA technology. Sinskey says the effort can lead to new medical devices like meshes, artificial veins and orthopedic tools.

Scientists have spun off the research to a Massachusetts-based company called Tepha, Inc. that plans to commercialize the technology, beginning with the suture, which, says Sinskey, is designed to remain in place for a set period of time. "It doesn't decrease and get weak slowly," he says. Instead it maintains its strength until it "drops off like a brick."

The suture dissolves into the body, causing no harm. The process has proven safe in animal tests. Researchers expect human trials to begin within a year.