In early tests, this laser-activated silk and gold material held wounds together better than stitches or glue
On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Commander Riker had an impressive ability to receive head wounds. Luckily for him, Dr. Crusher could whip out the dermal regenerator, a handheld sci-fi tool that healed skin wounds with a colorful laser.
Luckily for us, Kaushal Rege and colleagues at Arizona State University are developing essentially the same thing. Well, close enough. In a new paper out from the journal Advanced Functional Materials, the engineers successfully repaired animal wounds with a silk and gold nanomaterial activated by a laser.
In this proof-of-concept study, the technology quickly sealed soft-tissue wounds in pig intestines and on mice skin. In the pig intestines, for example, the seal proved to be roughly seven times stronger than traditional sutures.
When sealing wounds, sutures, staples, or glue can often cause problems such as leakages at the repair site and slow recovery of the tissue. Were trying to seal incisions faster and heal them at an earlier point of time, says Deepanjan Ghosh, a PhD student in Reges lab and co-author on the paper.Photos: Russell Urie/Advanced Functional Materials This comparison shows the effects on a wound of conventional suturing, skin glue, and laser sealing at 0 and 2 days after injury.
To use a laser to seal skin, one must focus the heat of the light using some sort of photoconverter. Reges lab opted for gold nanorods and embedded them in a silk protein matrix purified from silkworm cocoons. A silk protein called fibroin binds to collagen, the structural protein that holds together human skin cells. When near-infrared light hits the gold nanorods, they produce heat and activate the silk and skin to create bonds, forming a sturdy seal.
The near-infrared laser operates at a wavelength of about 800 nanometers, which is powerful enough to heat the gold without damaging the skin.
The engineers created two disc-shaped sealants: one for wet environments that does not dissolve in water and one for dry environments that does. The first was used to repair samples of pig intestine. When the t...