Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Star Trek Sutures - In the Flesh

NASA may be disappointing generations of people who expected better planning from that organization in terms of continuing to provide a reliable mode of transportation to the International Space Station as well as micro-gravity research, but that doesn't mean they aren't breaking grounds in new ways here on Earth.

The good folks at JSC with the help of a few partners have developed a technique to seal traumatic wounds without the use of needles and thread or even worse, staples.

A biodegradable protein sealant, aka solder, is applied to the wound.  A miniature portable microwave generator and handheld antenna deliver microwave energy to the solder which seals the wound.  The antenna can be of many shapes that allow for contact or non-contact sealing of the wound.

This technique has several advantages over the currently experimental laser welding of wounds.
  1. It is small and portable, unlike bulky laser welding equipment that can't easily be transported between operating rooms or be used by EMTs or on the battle field.
  2. Microwave sealing is not as dependent on the uniformity and thickness of the protein solder application.
  3. The frequency of the microwave energy can be tuned depending on the depth of the wound as well as minimizing the area of effect of surrounding healthy tissue.
  4. Microwave energy may effectively kill bacteria thereby sterilizing the wound during the procedure, but this has yet to be validated.
I for one am always excited when I hear about less painful or invasive medical procedures.  I get down right giddy when I hear that it is engineers and scientists who get the credit for developing these life-saving techniques.

Next thing you know, Bones will be distributing pills to cure kidney disease.

(read the full article)