Future Tense

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Technology: Laser-assisted nanosuturing

Purpose: To close surface wounds with light

Developer: Irene Kochevar, PhD, a chemist, and Robert W. Redmond, PhD, an associate professor of dermatology and an associate chemist in the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital

Early adopter: In clinical trials at the Laser Center at Massachusetts General

How it works: By shining a light from a green potassium-titanyl-phosphate laser onto the skin after each side of the wound has been coated with rose bengal, an ophthalmologic dye approved by the FDA, a chemical reaction occurs that fuses the edges of the wound together without heating the skin.

Potential improvement: The sutures are not as inflammatory as traditional stitches, do not produce the allergic reactions that can occur when a foreign body is introduced to the skin, and create a watertight seal that may also reduce postsurgical infections because there are no openings in the skin. The sutures can save patients a return visit to the doctor's office to have their stitches removed. There is also a cosmetic benefit, because the resulting scar is a single line versus the cross-hatch marks that can result from traditional stitches.

What's next: Researchers are trying to reduce the size of the technology so it's portable enough for dermatologists to use in the clinical settings. They are also trying to cut down the treatment time from about three minutes to less than 30 seconds. In addition, researchers hope to expand the use of the technology beyond the skin's surface to repair tissues like the cornea and nerves that are damaged by conventional suturing.

Carrie Vaughan

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