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Biotech Medicine The Military

Air Force Treating Wounds With Lasers and Nanotech 92

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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  • Pretty soon, you'll be able to play Crysis without a computer!

  • QuikClot (Score:5, Informative)

    by BlueBoxSW.com ( 745855 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:06AM (#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.

    • 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

    • Re:QuikClot (Score:5, Informative)

      by talldean ( 1038514 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:20AM (#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.
      • by L3370 ( 1421413 )
        QuickClot is great but typically not so hot for "civillian" purposes. I've been told that it burns like hell when applied...not to mention there are risks involved with using it.

        It's great for military use because a soldier typically becomes wounded and incapacitated during combat. Spending precious time to stop the bleeding isn't an option when you have automatic gunfire streaming overhead and mortars falling around you.

        When you receive an injury in a non-combat environment(camping, hiking, or hunti
      • QuikClot is used as a last resort after a tourniquet and direct pressure. The medical team has to literary cut out the chemical. Because of the clots potentially getting in the blood stream is why its the last line of defense in a combat zone. Ref: AF Combat Lifesavers Training
    • Meh, I'd say it's similar generally, but significantly better.

      All you do here is dope the wound with some pigment to enhance the excitation of collagen bonding in the wound itself; in a sense you're taking the mechanism of wound-healing, and simply speeding it up.

      Quik-clot, a great tool by the way, adds EXTERNAL substance(s) that promote quick clotting. Sure in the former you're adding a pink dye, but the amount of external (ie possibly rejection-inducing and complication-causing) material is substantially

    • I am in the Air Force, and trust me on this; you do *NOT* want QuikClot used on your person unless it is a life threating situation. It is a chemical burning agent that is being inserted into your skin, as well as the the issues of the clotting agent travling through your blood stream there is a significant threat of the patient slipping into shock. We are taught that the use of QuikClot is the last option to be used only if your other methods of stopping bloodflow did not work. To put that in perspective,
      • The consumer version is supposed to have less risk of clot and burn. I wonder if there's a reason why they issue you a more powerful/dangerous version.

  • What? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pantherace ( 165052 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:06AM (#32127154)

    Superglue is too fast now?

  • Like the article says, these techniques are for superficial wounds. Is that really something our military is having a problem with? I think the military should be a little more concerned with critical injuries than lacerations that can be closed with superglue. Maybe it's a bigger problem than I realize?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by loufoque ( 1400831 )

      Maybe it's a bigger problem than I realize?

      Yes, those soldiers that complain of superficial wounds are just pussies.

    • 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 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...
      • 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.

        • As someone who is about to go through pararescue apprentice training, I approve of your comment =)
        • 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, ...

          This is one of the main reasons that military weapons are designed to wound rather than kill. (Another being that, once the war is over, it's nice to have patched up as many as possible of the enemy wounded and thus have fewer killed and fewer grieving families pushing for future unfriendly relations between the countries or run

          • This is one of the main reasons that military weapons are designed to wound rather than kill.

            Wounding may be more likely due to the choice of smaller fmj rounds for assault rifles, but they were not designed specifically to be less than lethal. The vast majority of military weapons are clearly designed for killing not wounding, and weapons designed for such are prohibited by convention. A hollowpoint of the same caliber may be more likely to kill, but they are banned for every caliber because they cause

      • Yep. When I was a medic, the vast majority of wounds I treated were superficial. And, as you say, the demands of triage are such that in combat, soldiers with "superficial" wounds which are still painful and debilitating enough to take them off the line can wait a long time for treatment.

        And when I was an infantryman, I learned that even when people aren't actively trying to kill you, just being in the field is enough to generate a constant low-level stream of injuries. Crawling around in rocks and brush

        • Actually, now that I think about it, living that way was pretty much why I decided to become a medic when I re-upped. ;)

          Why didn't you just leave the army?

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Not to mention that with their superficial wounds safely closed they are pretty much immediately fit for full duty. Soldiers who have to keep stitches dry are not.

    • by cptdondo ( 59460 )

      Read your military history. Up until very, very recently, the vast majority of war deaths were due to infections and disease. During the Civil War, disease and infection caused something like 2/3 of the casualites. I believe it was the Vietnam War where, for the first time, battlefield injuries caused more deaths than disease, mostly due to 1) dedicated civil engineering and sanitation teams, and 2) rapid evacuation by helicopter.

      So yes, "minor" wounds are something the military takes very seriously. Wh

  • Bad Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by berzerke ( 319205 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:07AM (#32127168) Homepage

    Before there are rants on the unapproved use of medical procedures on the troops, as suggested by the summary, read the article. It states they are only doing clinical trials, and mention the difficulty in getting FDA approval.

    • 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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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 d

  • We're now one step closer to... Wait for it...

    Shark troops! Heh heh heh.
  • and I love living in it...now where is my anti-aging pill?

    • 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."
      • There is no anti-aging pill

        Wrong. It is called Viagra.

      • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @12:30PM (#32128604)

        except maybe more Vitamin D than you're probably getting

        Recently discovered this myself.

        Had some lab work done not too long ago... Turns out I've got almost no Vitamin D in me. "trace amounts" is what the Doctor said. He was horrified and put me on some supplements pretty quickly. Told me to get outside in the sun, eat better, etc.

        I had no idea just how many horrible things can happen when you're low on Vitamin D.

        And, according to my doctor, just about everyone is deficient to one degree or another. And it's especially bad around here in the winter (less sunlight and people don't like to go out in the cold).


      • Please stop spouting such nonsense. I know hundreds of people who eat nothing but "healthy" foods all year long, for every meal. We're talking green vegetables, fresh fruit, rice, and a wee bit of meat. They are 35 but look like 55 and they tend to die early. Why do they age so fast? Hard, physical labor. Go ahead and say it's good to get exercise, then do a mortality check of the villages where they live. Donut shops donut exist there.
    • Find a way to make HGH [wikipedia.org] affordable and you'll be pretty close to that anti-aging pill.
  • Protoplasers. Party drugs. NEVER mix!

  • I rtfa and I can't find a direct link to the use of nanoparticles. Are they the component of the "glue" that, when activated by the laser forms the seal? Or are they a figment (pigment?) of imagination here and used to attract readers with a buzzword? http://www2.massgeneral.org/wellman/faculty-kochevar-projects.htm [massgeneral.org]
  • My sharks can have a medical contribution now!
  • Who else mentally flashed to the episode of TNG?

    • I think you are referring to the Dermal Regenerator. Here's a list [memory-alpha.org] of episodes that featured this bad-boy.
  • Sorry to nitpick, but 2-3 minutes is not "instantly."
  • The nanotechnology bots better not run out of power in side of the body. At least we have code fixed now.

  • I'm not a doctor but it seems to me that for many years the idea of slowing healing to prevent scar tissue formation has been in play. Now they want to generate more scar tissue through faster healing.
                        Anyone who has ever been around a patient who is having facial tissue restored knows the odor of the acetic acid that is soaked into the bandages to prevent rapid healing,

    • ... seems to me that for many years the idea of slowing healing to prevent scar tissue formation has been in play. Now they want to generate more scar tissue through faster healing.

      I suspect the "scar tissue" bit was from the news article author rather than the researchers. As I understand it (and I'm not a medical type either), quickly cleaning a wound and gluing it shut will lead to minimal scar tissue formation.

      Unless the free radicals from the activated die destroy too many of the growth factors from t

  • This looks really cool... but as someone that cares for a bedridden spouse, this would be FANTASTIC for taking care of bedsores...
  • Isn't that the one where Jason gets an upgrade?

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.