We're one step closer to Star Trek's medical tricorder. Doctors say they've successfully used a new laser technology that closes wounds by inspiring torn tissues to grow back together at a rapid clip.
Technology Review has a terrific, detailed story about the laser tool and how it works. While lasers are crucial to the process, equally important is a light-activated dye. According to Technology Review:
The team took advantage of the fact that a number of dyes are activated in the presence of light. In the case of Rose Bengal—a stain used in just about every ophthalmologist's office to detect corneal lesions—the researchers believe that light helps transfer electrons between the dye molecule and collagen, the major structural component of tissue. This produces highly reactive free radicals that cause the molecular chains of collagen to chemically bond to each other, or "cross-link." Paint two sides of a wound with Rose Bengal, illuminate it with intense light, and the sides will knit themselves back together. "We call this nano suturing," [Massachusetts General doctor Irene] Kochevar says, "because what you're doing is linking together the little collagen fibers. It's way beyond anything that a thread of any kind can do."
Essentially, the dye becomes a kind of micro-thread. So you're still stitching wounds together the traditional way, except on a much smaller scale. Researchers have been testing the technique at Massachusetts General Hospital with great success - they say the laser technique makes wounds heal faster and more cleanly.
Read more about this intriguing new technique and the science behind it at Technology Review.