Dr. John Foster and his team at the University of New South Wales is working on a surgical biofilm to replace sutures for some of the most delicate neurological procedures.
Measuring just 50 microns, the film is placed on a surgical wound and exposed to an infrared laser, which heats the film just enough to meld it and the tissue, thus perfectly sealing the wound. Known as Surgilux, the device’s raw material is extracted from crab shells and has Food and Drug Administration approval in the US.
Early test results indicate that it has strongest potential for use in brain and nerve surgery because it can avoid the numerous disadvantages of invasive stictches/sutures, which fail to seal and can act as a source of infection.
“Others have tried surgical glues but these are mainly gel-like so bonding to the tissue is uneven often resulting in leakages and they’re not easy to use. The strongest surgical glue is so toxic that it’s limited to external applications,” says Dr Foster.
“Other devices use ultra-violet light to effect rather poor sealing, but UV rays are damaging to living cells. The beauty of this is that infra-red laser doesn’t cause any tissue damage. Better still, Surgilux has anti-microbial properties, which deters post-operative infections.”
“Surgilux is well suited to repairing damaged nerves because the gold standard — sutures — inevitably cause damage to nerves and there is always some permanent loss of function. Our test results with rats have shown some degree of permanent nerve recovery within six weeks of operating.”