Healing wounds with stitches and staples could be a thing of the past, thanks to this latest advance in laser technology.
The use of lasers to heal wounds is an idea that has been tested and teased for a while. However, previous attempts have been limited as the lasers can’t reach deep enough into the skin tissue without causing damage. To get deeper into the skin, the procedure requires a waveguide – a structure that helps channel the laser – that is able to remain partially embedded in the skin after the wound has been “stitched” over.
To tackle this, scientists from the University of St Andrews and Harvard Medical School have developed a new type of biodegradable polymer waveguide. Since it is completely biodegradable, it can be left in the wound, where it will eventually be harmlessly broken down.
Their findings have been published in Nature Communications.
The procedure. Image credit: Sedat Nizamoglu, et al/Nature Communications
The “nano-suturing” technique involves the use of a medical dye, called rose bengal, that links up the skin’s collagen structural proteins. As described by Gizmodo, when collagen is lacking an electron, it will bond with other nearby collagen molecules. Blasting the rose bengal dye with a laser beam causes it to steal an electron from the collagen, leaving it with an odd number of electrons. In order to resolve the electron’s unpaired state, the collagen will fuse with its neighbors, hence creating a natural seal.
Unlike more intrusive means of sealing wounds (like stitches and staples), this method won’t cause any inflammation or mild trauma to the skin.
In the study, the researcher tested their technique on a 10-millimeter-deep (0.39-inch-deep) cut on a deceased pig’s skin. Within 15 minutes, the wound was bonded.