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Gold solder used to laser-weld ruptured intestines

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May 9, 2013

A material known as a plasmonic polypeptide nanocomposite has been shown to strengthen las...

A material known as a plasmonic polypeptide nanocomposite has been shown to strengthen laser-welded seals in ruptured intestines (Image: Shutterstock)

Stitches and staples may be on their way to becoming a thing of the past, thanks to a developing technology known as laser tissue welding. Now, a new gold-based solder has been created, that could make tissue welds in regions such as the intestines much stronger and more reliable.

In “standard” laser tissue welding, a laser is used to precisely heat the body tissue at the edges of a wound. Putting it relatively simply, this causes the extracellular matrix of that tissue to change in structure, allowing the two edges to be sealed together.

It’s quicker to do, heals faster and leaves less scarring than stitches or staples, but the seals that are formed aren’t particularly strong. This could definitely be a problem in organs such as the intestines – if the seal broke and intestinal contents leaked out, a potentially fatal infection could result.

In order to make the seals stronger, a group of scientists led by Arizona State University’s Prof. Kaushal Rege has created a material known as a plasmonic polypeptide nanocomposite. Applied to the edges of a wound like a solder, it consists of microscopic gold nanorods cross-linked with elastin-like polypeptides (chains of amino acids). When exposed to near-infrared laser light, the mixture sets, seals with the tissue, and takes on an elastic quality.

In lab tests, the nanocomposite was applied to ruptures in the small intestines of pigs. Once the welds were complete, they were found to be strong and watertight, flexing with the natural tissue while also keeping bacteria-laden liquid from getting out of the intestine. Depending on the intended application of the nanocomposite, its characteristics (such as its flexibility) can be tweaked by altering the concentration of gold nanorods.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

Source: American Chemical Society

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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4 Comments

The more real world uses for Gold other then bling, the better in my opinion. Always like to hear of these medical breakthroughs, the rate at which medicine is evolving leaves me excited at where we will be in 20 years, and at the possible condition i will be in when im 90.

Arahant
9th May, 2013 @ 07:21 pm PDT

Interesting article, but it would have been better had the author explained the purpose of the gold particles in the the composite.

Siegfried Gust
10th May, 2013 @ 04:42 am PDT

Gold is extremely malleable, inert, and an excellent conductor of heat.

All three characteristics would be an advantage where a laser is used to 'weld' tissue and the weld must be extremely strong yet pliable.

Noel Frothingham
10th May, 2013 @ 01:01 pm PDT

I presume that the resulting weld is biodegradable, and (the polypeptide at least) is eventually absorbed into healing tissue. The reinforcing nanorods would remain embedded into the scar; hence the need for them to be inert, which is why gold is preferable to other metals.

Actually, perhaps silver might be even better; it is fully biocompatible, bacteriostatic, and not being quite as inert would presumably be dissolved and absorbed eventually. It all depends on the rate of absorption that you want, which perhaps could be finetuned by using an electrum alloy.

Freederick
14th May, 2013 @ 11:33 pm PDT
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