It seems like an idea that came right out of an episode of Star Trek, but according to Israeli scientists, using lasers for wound healing will soon be a reality.
The next big leap in healthcare
Researchers from Tel Aviv University have been hard at work on the idea of using futuristic laser technology for closing surgical incisions and wounds, rather than traditional methods that often lead to tissue damage and scarring.
Lead researcher Abraham Katzir, head of the Applied Physics Department feels that his new method is superior compared to modern glues and traditional stitches that have been used for the past several centuries.
“Today most of the incisions that are made by surgeons are bonded using sutures or clips or chemical glues and there are problems with these methods. And we found that if you heat the incision spot by spot by laser you can bond it without incisions and hopefully with very little or no scarring,” explained Katzir. “If you heat a spot on an incision to temperatures lower than say 50 or 55 degrees centigrade nothing happens. If you are above 65 degrees then you cause scarring and therefore we found that you have to heat each spot on an incision to roughly 60 degrees centigrade and then you get good bonding without scarring. And we carried out experiments on a large number of tissues, on skin, on cornea.”
Tackling the challenges of technology
Prior attempts to close wounds and incisions with the use of heat dates back to the 1970s; however, all prior efforts have failed to successfully control the amount of heat generated by laser light. Apparently, the Tel Aviv University team’s research has managed to develop a technique for measuring the heat that has not previously existed.
The team led by Katzir was able to develop an innovative optical fiber that has the capability of transmitting infrared light while measuring the heat in the tissue at the same time. They say this single fiber method is the only way for the device to accurately control the heat output of the laser.
“What we developed is a special optical fiber that can both transmit the laser energy to a spot on an incision and carefully measure the temperature of that spot, so then we can monitor and control the temperature of that spot and this is something that others have not done yet,” Katzir stated.
The optical fiber is small enough to be threaded into a tube thin enough that it would allow the use of the device for endoscopic surgeries such as microscopic repairs to nerves and blood vessels. Early testing on human patients showed successful healing of wound treatment with reduced scarring.
Laser-assisted tissue bonding
The tissue can bond with itself thanks to a protein called collagen. The structure of collagen resembles tiny microscopic hooks on each side of a cut. When collagen is heated up, it can be linked back together. The new bond becomes stable as the tissue is cooled in temperature.
Katzir and his team plan to follow up with the test subjects in one year to perform an examination of the scarring differences from the laser technique compared to traditional stitching methods.
-The Alternative Daily