Chemical engineer Kaushal Rege has been conducting research to provide a safer alternative to stitches and staples for bowel surgeries. His findings were the subject of a recent article in Chemical & Engineering News.
Rege is an associate professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.
He and his research team have been experimenting with gold nanorods, which have optical properties that help convert light from a near-infrared laser into heat, to develop nanocomposite materials that act like surgical solders. When hit with laser light, the materials help weld together pieces of tissue.
“The problem has been having the right materials to absorb heat and fuse with the tissue, without causing any thermal damage,” Rege says. Other research groups have developed organic dyes to act as tissue solders, but Rege says these don’t convert light into heat very efficiently.
To improve these seals, he developed a material that acted like the solder that plumbers use when connecting metal pipes, and then tested it on dissected pig intestines in the lab. The tissue sealed with nanosolder recovered about 50 percent of its tensile strength and no bacteria was observed to be seeping through the incision.
Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, director of the Nanomedicine Translational Think Tank at Heidelberg University, in Germany, says the nanosolder shows promise and “could completely change how surgery is done.” But he cautions that the material needs many more tests to demonstrate its safety and efficacy, which could be overcome by experimenting with other materials besides gold.
For more details, read the article “Nanosolder for Safer Surgery” in Chemical & Engineering News.