Forget stitches and old-school sutures. The Air Force is funding scientists who are using nano-technology and lasers to seal up wounds at a molecular level.
It might sound like Star Trek tech, but it’s actually the latest in a series of ambitious Pentagon efforts to create faster, more effective methods of treating war-zone injuries.
Last year, the military’s research agency, Darpa, requested proposals for instant injury repair using adult stem cells, and Pentagon scientists are already doing human trials of spray-on skin.
Massachusetts General Hospital researchers Irene Kochevar, Robert Redmond and dermatologist Sandy Tsao are behind the nano-tech project, which has been funded by various agencies within the Department of Defense for eight years. They’ve successfully tried out the nano-sutures in lab experiments and a clinical trial of 31 patients in need of skin incisions.
The process would replace the sutures and staples traditionally used to repair wounded skin. Instead of being sealed up with a needle and thread, a patient’s wound would be coated in a dye, then exposed to green light for 2-3 minutes. The dye absorbs the light and catalyzes molecular bonds between the tissue’s collagen.
The bonds instantly create a seal that’s watertight, which prevents inflammation or risk of infection, and speeds up the formation of scar tissue.
“It’s so simple, but such an improvement on current processes, and that’s what’s really remarkable,” Kochevar told Danger Room. The process uses a hand-held laser device that’s about a foot long and a few inches wide.Penetrating eye wounds, like shrapnel injuries, could also benefit from a patch version of the treatment. A biological membrane stained with dye would be applied over the eye, and quickly sealed using the laser until a soldier could undergo more intensive surgery.
“We’re so close to these processes being used,” Kochevar said. “But FDA approval is still a real hurdle.”
Next up, the researchers want to try out the procedure in more invasive surgeries and conduct more extensive testing on people, in hopes of fast-tracking war-zone use. They’ve applied for funding to conduct human trials on nerve repair.
“Superficial wound healing is impressive, but a continuous molecular seal of a nerve or in a corneal implant would be a profound leap", Kochevar said.
The basic tenet of laser therapy is that laser radiation has a wavelength dependent capability to alter cellular behaviour in the absence of significant heating. Low intensity radiation can inhibit as well as stimulate cellular activity. Laser therapy typically involves the delivery of 1-4J/cm 2 to treatments sites with lasers having output powers between 10mW and 90mW. There are two major areas of laser therapy research: the laboratory and the clinic. The laboratory presents the least ambiguous results. Here, although unsupported results do appear, the vast majority of published work finds clear evidence that laser irradiation alters cellular processes in a nonthermal, wavelength-dependent manner. Low energy laser irradiation alters the cellular function by effecting protein synthesis, cell growth and differentiation, cell motility, membrane potential and binding affinities, neurotransmitter release, ATP synthesis and prostaglandin synthesis. Laboratory findings provide scientific rati onale of laser therapy and the effect of laser therapy on cellular processes. This review outlines some of the current methods employed in the laboratory to measure the effect of low level laser therapy (LLLT) on cellular and molecular processes in the cell. This review briefly explains the different structural, cellular and molecular parameters and highlights some of the basic principles and protocols including specialized equipment requirements.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this paper was to investigate the efficacy of low-level laser radiation (LLLR) with wavelength of 904 nm on the stimulation of the healing process of postoperative aseptic wounds (early scar).
BACKGROUND DATA: Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) has been increasingly used to treat many disorders, including wounds. However, despite such increased clinical usage, there is still controversy regarding the efficacy of this wound treatment in curent clinical practice.
METHODS: LLLT has been used to treat cutting plague in the right instep and on the left foot. Both resulted from sutured wounds. The clinical evaluation by semiquantitative methods is presented. RESULTS: Clinical evaluation showed that the healing process of these postoperatively treated wounds has occurred and that the functional recovery of the patients (i.e., return to their ordinary life) was faster than without treatment.
CONCLUSION: LLLR with wavelength of 904 nm to stimulate postoperative aseptic wounds (early scar) is efficient in both cases of cutting plague.