Laser wound care is lighting up the medical world
Lasers are more than just a cool party trick: They might save your life someday
Laser wound technology uses lasers, gold, and silk to seal wounds and incisions in human skin
Researchers have been studying laser treatment for years and are planning on investigating laser treatment usefulness for internal organ incisions, too
Tatu, a lion cub in Denver, successfully received laser treatment to fix a wound on his ear
Medicine is about to take a giant leap into the future. Instead of getting wounds or incisions stitched up, you might soon have the option of having your skin put back together by way of laser. It’s safer, quicker, and much, much cooler.
Scientists at Arizona State University under the direction of Kaushal Rege have been experimenting with laser technology as a possible wound care alternative for the past five years. Their focus was on determining whether or not laser treatments could be as effective as conventional stitches, and while they were having some initial success, the study really took off when researchers took their experiments to a much fancier level.
What is laser wound care?
Silk and gold hold all the power when it comes to laser wound care. When researchers hit minuscule amounts of silkworm-produced silk and gold pieces with laser light, the materials transform. The gold makes the laser light hotter, which enables the silk to bind with the collagen in the skin, creating a smooth and seamless seal in the skin.
Rege’s scientists suspect that using laser wound technology to seal wounds and incisions might be even safer than common stitches. It is possible that laser wound treatment is even more resilient than today’s traditional options.
Why aren’t all doctors using this wound technology now?
Even though the science is promising, there are a number of questions that need to be answered before laser wound care goes mainstream. First, scientists need to determine whether or not laser wound treatment is strong enough to work long-term on skin; even though they have had skin-based success, they don’t know how long the cauterized wound treatment will last in real life.
Laser wound technology might be even safer than common stitches.
Scientists are also hoping that they will be able to use laser wound treatments on different parts of the body. If surgeons could laser incisions shut after surgery on internal organs, for example, surgery might be faster and safer for everyone. Internal organs obviously deal with different types of stress and movement than skin does, so more in-depth research is required before this potential option becomes a reality.
You won’t be the first laser wound treatment patient
Although more research is needed before laser wound treatment goes mainstream (for humans), there has already been a successful laser treatment patient. Tatu (also called Tater Tot) is a lion cub who lives in Predator Ridge in the Denver Zoo. Visitors recently noticed that baby Tatu had a small cut in his ear. Instead of stitching him up, vets at the zoo used lasers.
There has already been a successful laser treatment patient
After a successful laser wound treatment (and some quick-absorbing healing gel), Tatu’s wound is healing perfectly. Lucky little Tatu has not only gotten a cutting-edge wound treatment, but he’s happily playing with some new toys and enjoying his adoring fans as the picture of perfect health.
We might have to wait a little while, but maybe someday we can all be as cool as Tatu. Lasers have always been pretty amazing, but soon, they might be pretty life-saving, too.
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101
Tatu isn’t the only popular adorable animal. Check out some of these fabulous photobombs to fall in love with even more animals.
Technology is changing all sorts of medical treatments. It’s possible that in a handful of years, lasers will seal your wounds and stimulating your brain cells.