Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and Occidental College have identified and are studying a new way performing surgery using electricity. Some tissues, such as the ears, cornea, and joints, have a collagen-rich extracellular matrix that can be manipulated using an electric current.
The idea is that if you deform a piece of tissue, such as bending an ear, and apply an electric current through the deformed area, the stress within the tissue is released. The ear will now stay bent, and the effect seems to be permanent.
The researchers have been doing this to rabbit ears and have been perfecting the technique while trying to understand the chemistry that happens within.
Since a relatively low current is used, there’s almost no heating of the tissues and the damage done is quite small. The technique is so fine that even the cornea can be remodeled in a variety of ways, including multi-diopter and multi-focal correction without relying on expensive femtosecond lasers.
The technique shouldn’t require anesthesia or an operating room in many cases and may end up being a standard way of performing all kinds of surgeries of collagen-rich tissues.
Here’s a presentation from the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition: