Once more science fiction comes to life in medicine

There are a lot of people who draw direct parallels between the mobile phones we use today to the Star Trek communicator. Much the same has happened with the tricorder and certain apps that you can use on things like the iPhone and will probably extend to the new iPad.

Sure there are still a lot of things on shows like Star Trek, and other well known science fiction shows or movies, that are far fetched but it looks like one more of those items might actually becoming a modern medical tool.

Anyone who has watch Star Trek will be familiar with the fancy laser like medical device that was used to magically heal wounds. Well it seems that such a tool might actually be just right around the corner if the post over at the Wired Danger Room blog is any indication.

It seems that because of a DARPA request for proposals regarding instant injury repair using adult stem cells we are hearing about a project from researchers, Irene Kockevar, Robert Redmond, and dermatologist Sandy Tsao, at the Massachusetts General Hospital involving nano-technology and the quick healing of wounds using lasers.

They’ve successfully tried out the nano-sutures in lab experiments and a clinical trial of 31 patients in need of skin incisions.

The process would replace the sutures and staples traditionally used to repair wounded skin. 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 water-tight, which prevents inflammation or risk of infection, and speeds up the formation of scar tissue.

“It’s so simple, but such an improvement on current processes, and that’s what’s really remarkable,” Kochevar told Danger Room of the process, which uses a hand-held laser device that’s about a foot long and a few inches wide.

Penetrating eye wounds, like shrapnel injuries, could also benefit from a patch version of the treatment. A biological membrane stained with dye would be applied over the eye, and quickly sealed using the laser until a war-fighter could undergo more intensive surgery.

“We’re so close to these processes being used,” Kochevar said. “But FDA approval is still a real hurdle.”

Source: Wired: Danger Room

Beyond superficial wound healing the team is also looking for additional funding to expand the research to cover more invasive types of wounds and surgeries.