Did you know that light can be used to close wounds just like stitches, staples and surgical glues? The technique is called Photochemical Tissue Bonding (PTB), and thanks to a new type of fiber optic technology it could be about to get far more effective. Until recently, PTB has only been used to treat superficial wounds. With new biodegradable fiber optics, however, it could be used to treat deep tissue damage as well. So how does PTB work?
First, a light-sensitive dye is applied to the surface of the tissue and the wound is held closed. Then, the wound is exposed to visible radiation (light) which triggers a chemical reaction in the dye that forms an immediate water-tight bond with the tissue. In essence, it’s sort of like welding with light.
Developed by a research team at the University of St. Andrews, biodegradable fiber optics can now be used in catheters to treat deep wounds with PTB. Once the treatment is complete, the catheter simply disintegrates until it is absorbed into the surrounding tissue. In fact, biodegradable fiber optics could have a number of other exciting healthcare applications as well.
“A variety of optical techniques, such as photochemical tissue bonding and photodynamic therapy, require efficient delivery of light into deep tissues, but the current limited penetration of light in tissue constitutes a serious constraint in clinical use,” said lead researcher Malte Gather in a press release. “Having biocompatible and bioabsorbable optical components may transform photomedicine from a discipline where light is predominantly applied externally, to a new paradigm based on tissue-integrated and precisely controlled delivery and collection of light.”
The research team hopes that this technology could even be used to treat tumors in cancer patients with a technique known as long-term photodynamic therapy (PDT). Whether they’re delivering broadband internet at lightning fast speeds around the globe or healing wounds in revolutionary new ways, it seems there’s no limit to the potential applications of fiber optics.