Researchers at Wellman Center have discovered a unique technology to close wounds using light. The technique is easy to use, making it readily translatable to many medical applications. A FDA-approved dye is applied to the tissue surfaces, which are then brought into contact and treated with green light from a clinical laser. Laser light activates the dye to form a continuous seal between the tissues but doesn’t heat the tissue or cause damage. A water-tight seal results from formation of protein photochemical crosslinks, thus the name Photochemical Tissue Bonding or PTB.
In a study of skin wounds in patients, this technique produced a thin line scar in contrast to the cross hatch marks often produced by sutures. The researchers, Drs. Irene Kochevar and Robert Redmond, have also show that this light activated repair technique has advantages over sutures for reattaching nerves, sealing eye injuries and rejoining severed blood vessels and tendons.
Since PTB can replace sutures in many surgical applications the allergic and inflammatory responses to suture material, which can lead to fibrosis and adhesions, are eliminated. PTB is especially valuable for microsurgical applications where passing a needle through delicate tissues, such as nerve and cornea, damages the structure. In addition, utilizing PTB for microsurgery can reduce the need for the high levels of surgical skills required by conventional techniques. In essence, PTB has been shown to improve surgical outcomes and may make new surgeries available by using light to seal and connect delicate tissues with minimal scarring.
The US Department of Defense has recognized the potential of PTB for repair of trauma damage including penetrating eye injuries, gaps in peripheral nerve caused by loss of tissue and many types of orthopedic injuries. The DoD has supported work in the Wellman Center for PTB technology. The MGH has licensed the PTB technology to a company specifically organized to introduce PTB into mainstream medical practice.