ASU bioengineer Kaushal Rege has been conducting research to provide a safer alternative to stitches and staples for the bowel. His findings were the subject of a recent article in Chemical & Engineering News.
Rege and his team of researchers 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,” says Rege. Other research groups have developed organic dyes to act as tissue solders, but, he says, these don’t convert light into heat very efficiently.
To improve these seals, Rege aimed to create a material that acted like the solder 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% 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.