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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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  • Re:QuikClot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:10AM (#32127226)

    this sounds better than quick-clot (which is probably still the first-step treatment) in that it cauterizes and dis-infects. Qick-clot isn't a "permanent" treatment, and it doesn't replace stitches/staples/glue

  • by drumcat (1659893) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:17AM (#32127352)
    Superficial wounds in a shit environment will cause infection quickly, and remove soldiers from battle. Not to mention, this seems a little more elegant than glue. Glue works for some stuff...
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:27AM (#32127526)
    now where is my anti-aging pill?

    There is no anti-aging pill (except maybe more Vitamin D than you're probably getting).

    There is, though, an aging pill. It's called a "donut."
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:30AM (#32127576) Journal
    Given that explosives can toss thousands of fragments capable of causing modest surface lacerations a fair distance beyond the "instant death/horrible injury" radius, it probably isn't at all uncommon to have situations with a dozen or two casualties per explosion, some hundreds in the course of a bombardment, all with somewhere between "multiple" and "numerous" surface wounds. All of which need to be closed before they get infected, or start collecting sand and bugs, and so forth, but during which time the cream of the medical personnel, and their support staff, are busy trying to stabilize the seriously injured.

    If you can, with the right technology, make it so that anybody who can handle a syringe full of glue, basic aseptic technique, and a flashlight can swiftly close superficial wounds, you can probably reduce the mean-time-to-treatment for the lightly to moderately wounded, reduce the number of gross, scar-tastic rushed suture jobs, and preserve the time and attention of the most skilled medics for the more serious injuries.

    Assuming the light source can be shrunk and hardened(which given the impressive performance of modern solid state lighting and diode lasers is a definite possibility), you could probably get the whole system down to something that consists of a funny looking flashlight and some disposable tubes of glue, suitable for forward operating use by anybody who has had cursory training...
  • Re:Bad Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by reverseengineer (580922) on Friday May 07, 2010 @12:30PM (#32128592)
    Also, the way this technique works might pose some long-term risks. The agent used, the dye Rose Bengal [wikipedia.org], is activated by light to generate free radicals in surrounding molecules. The surrounding molecule radicals react with each other to crosslink and seal the wound shut. Generating collagen radicals that crosslink would be fine; it's the possibility of damaging DNA that would be trouble. Rose Bengal has been used as a diagnostic stain in human tissue for decades, and has a established record of safety, but it's worth proceding with caution here.
  • by Rene S. Hollan (1943) on Friday May 07, 2010 @01:24PM (#32129546)

    Yup. Remember that an injured soldier typically takes three soldiers to remove him/her, whereas a dead soldier takes one. Injured soldiers are a real drain on tactical effectiveness, unless one accepts the premise that it is best to just let them die or "put them out of their misery" so the mission can continue with the least loss of effectiveness. I submit that that may be tactically effective, but (a) unacceptably brutal, and (b) strategically ineffective unless one can sustain a war of attrition.

    Rapid treatment not only saves lives (and provides a soldier to live to fight another day), but helps minimize the "expense" of triage and evac.

  • Re:Bad Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday May 07, 2010 @04:11PM (#32132452) Homepage Journal

    it's the possibility of damaging DNA that would be trouble

    Risk/reward. What if there's a .00000001 chance of getting a melanoma from it? How does that stack up to post-surgical infection risk?

    We're pretty good at DNA repair. Humans can take a 3 Rem exposure without much change in outcomes. Diet Coke contains mitochondrial DNA mutagens.

    Given the choice at my local hospital, I'd take the chance and not have a big scar. My existing scar tissue has more problems than normal skin, so there are other risks down the line to consider as well.

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