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Heat-sealing wounds.

Heat-sealing wounds

In medicine, lasers are used primarily for cutting through tissue or sealing off blood vessels. But they also have potential as a way to fuse together the sides of a wound, says R. Patrick Abergel of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif. Abergel and his colleagues used lasers to weld skin wounds on mice and found that laser-sealed tissue held together as well as sutured skin, and there was less scarring.

"The laser welding has clear advantages over conventional suturing techniques,' Abergel says. Laser welding, he adds, is sterile and nontactile, does not require an introduction of foreign materials into the wound and improves cosmetic results.

The researchers have also tried the procedure on pigs, whose skin has more in common with human skin than does mouse skin. But because the skin of a pig is thicker, it is a little more difficult to seal: Using too much energy burns the wound, and too little allows it to reopen. A second energy burns the wound, found, is that pigment in dark pigskin absorbs the energy, making it difficult to weld without burning.

What makes a laser-sealed wound stick together has yet to be determined. "When you cook an egg, you're denaturing the protein,' says Abergel. "Maybe here we're just denaturing the connective tissue.'
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Title Annotation:lasers used to seal wounds
Publication:Science News
Date:May 17, 1986
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