Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Ultra-Thin Surgical Patch Has Endless Possibilities

Throughout the decades, surgeons have typically used stitches and staples to close up wounds. They may even use sheets several millimeters thick coated with fibrin, a protein that makes blood clot and is glue-like but which can cause unwanted sticking to nearby tissue.

Now, Japanese scientists have revealed a new, cutting edge surgical ‘nano-sheet’ they have developed that is one thousand times thinner than Cellophane that can patch up internal wounds before dissolving inside the body.

This transparent adhesive sheeting is made from a substance derived from crab shells and a viscous gum from algae and is only 75 nanometers thick. A nanometer is one-billionth of one meter.

"This is the world's thinnest adhesive plaster," said Toshinori Fujie, a researcher involved in the joint project by Tokyo's private Waseda University and the National Defense Medical College.

"We know food Cellophane clings on to the surface of various objects. We have made a sheet ultimately thin... so that it is highly flexible and can stick to organs well with no glue," he told AFP.

The experiment, which was repeated several times, consisted of using the new nano-sheet to patch a six-millimeter-wide hole in a dog’s lung.

The sheet proved to have the strength to stand up under the pressure of the dog’s respiration and allow the wounds to heal within a month without a visible trace, according to Fujie.

Researchers hope to launch human clinical trials in three years.

The sheets might also prove to be useful in treating external wounds in the future as well.

"Organs repaired with this sheet do not have scars, unlike after stitches," Fujie said. "We believe this could also be true on the skin."

If the tests show that it is effective externally, it could open up a world of applications such as being applied to wounds from surgery in breast cancer patients, he said.

"Some people also want to use this for treating bed sores. The next application will definitely be on the skin," he said.

Fujie says that the inventors have been exploring all possibilities, even cosmetic uses such as stretching out wrinkles or holding skin conditioners in place.

"As this is transparent on the skin, you could be wearing a face pack while working in the office," he said.