There are quite a few bits of “future tech” in the various Star Trek series that are a little hard to believe, and the device their medics use for treating cuts is definitely one of them... they just shine the gizmo on a wound, and it instantly heals up. C’mon, that could never work! Or could it? The US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) is now developing technology that could treat airmen’s battlefield injuries with - you guessed it - light. What’s next, replicator-made Klingon food?

The process is called Photochemical Tissue Bonding, and it can replace conventional sutures, staples and glues in repairing skin wounds, reconnecting severed peripheral nerves, blood vessels, tendons and incisions in the cornea. It was developed by Harvard Medical School professor and Massachusetts General Hospital Wellman Center researcher, Dr. Irene Kochevar and her colleague at Wellman, Associate Professor Robert Redmond.

When treating an injury, a medic applies a dye to the wound, then briefly exposes it to green light. The dye absorbs the light, which helps it to molecularly bond proteins on the tissue surfaces. The result is what the researchers call a nanosuture, and it appears to be superior to conventional methods. “No glues, proteins or other materials are used that might stimulate an inflammatory response,” said Kochevar. “An immediate, water-tight seal is formed between the tissue surfaces leading to reduced inflammation in the near term and better scar formation in the long term.”

Kochevar and Redmond are now working with the AFOSR on shortening the treatment time, and creating even stronger bonds.