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Biotech Medicine The Military

Air Force Treating Wounds With Lasers and Nanotech 92

Posted by kdawson
from the do-not-cut-the-shark dept.
An anonymous reader passes along a piece up on Wired's Danger Room about advanced medical tech that's being used in the military, but is not available generally due to the lack of FDA approval. "Forget stitches and old-school sutures. The Air Force is funding scientists who are using nanotechnology 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. ... 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."
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Air Force Treating Wounds With Lasers and Nanotech

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  • QuikClot (Score:5, Informative)

    by BlueBoxSW.com (745855) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:06AM (#32127136) Homepage

    Sounds like a fancy-scmancy version of Quikclot, the powder you can pour on a wound to form an instant clot.

    Not only is it widely used, you can buy it for your own first aid kit from Amazon and others.

  • by Rallias Ubernerd (1760460) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:07AM (#32127172) Journal
    It is possible that they can use this system to repair underwater wires that transmit internet data. I mean, don't just stand there, Satelites aren't the only way internet is moved overseas.
  • Re:QuikClot (Score:5, Informative)

    by talldean (1038514) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:20AM (#32127404) Homepage
    QuikClot works a bit differently; it's chitosan, or basically, it's ground up shellfish shells. The issue there was that using QuikClot on massive wounds occasionally causes blood clots travelling through the body; soldiers with gunshot wounds treated with it stopped bleeding, but died of internal clots hitting their brain or hearts. The one brand of QuikClot still sold apparently didn't have the same problem, or at least, not to a large degree. I carry one in my first aid kit.
  • Re:What? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nadaka (224565) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:36AM (#32127682)

    The problem with superglue/dermabond is that it is a bit toxic and is only really suitable for surface application. This new method looks like it is for internal use on deeper wounds.

  • Re:Nanotech? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Splatus (1417765) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:42AM (#32127792)
    nevermind, I found it. The "nano" refers to the size of the sutures. http://www2.massgeneral.org/wellman/faculty-kochevar-research-proteincrosslinking.htm [massgeneral.org] Probably hard to publish an article without using the term "nano" somewhere
  • by reverseengineer (580922) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:54AM (#32127984)
    Cauterization uses the direct application of heat to seal wounds. The heat can be applied in a number of ways, including lasers, an electric current, or just a very hot piece of metal. This, however, is not a technique to destroy tissue but rather to glue it back together. The active principle is a light-sensitive dye called Rose Bengal that is applied to the wound. When Rose Bengal absorbs light with a wavelength of around 560nm, it enters an excited state which ends up transferring energy to surrounding molecules, which in the case of a wound, would primarily be collagen protein. The transferred energy generates free radical species that cause the collagen molecules to bind to each other, sealing the wound. So there isn't much heating of the wound; the laser is present to activate the Rose Bengal, not cook the tissue.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:44AM (#32128880)

    Christ, that was more insightful than either the first post or this post, and remarkably concise. Nice work.

  • by Silh (70926) on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:24PM (#32134452)

    The nature of the reactions, despite 'application of energy', is quite different; the energy involved is also on vastly different scales.

    Cauterization involves application of heat, burning the tissues (killing the tissues) and denaturating the proteins (completely wrecking their structure), causing them to precipitate out of solution and clump together, plugging things up (plugging up bleeding blood vessels, and also causing blood to clot around the plugs, being a side effect of it). Lots of heat energy, sufficient to burn flesh. Usually done with a fair bit more precision these days of course.

    This technique, on the other hand, is quite similar to one which I use from time to time for disinfection of periodontal pockets around teeth... application of a dye (in my case, toluidine blue) which binds to the bacteria, and then activation of the dye with the appropriate frequency of light which is matched to the absorption spectrum of the dye (sorry, not at the office so can't look up the specs), generating free radicals which react with bacterial components and ultimately killing the bacteria. The energy involved is literally that of the photon of the proper wavelength which knocks the electron out of the dye when the dye absorbs it... multiplied many times of course. Without the matched dye to absorb the light though, the light won't be doing a heck of a lot of useful work... sure it'll be absorbed by other molecules, which does heat them up somewhat, but nowhere near the level of heat used in cauterization.

    In this situation, the dye is Rose Bengal, which likely has an affinity for collagen. Activation of the dye causes the collagen molecules to form bonds with one another, cross-linking them. Essentially, it turns the existing collagen where it is applied into the 'glue' to hold the wound together. No destruction of living tissue as cautery would (whether tissues die from other factors with the injury, such as insufficient blood supply, are a different story), and also much less of a mess of various byproducts left behind afterwards as well.

Save gas, don't use the shell.

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