New fiber-optic technology could heal wounds faster

January 29, 2016
New fibre-optic technology could heal wounds faster
Bioabsorbable optical waveguides can be implanted into tissue to deliver light deeper and more effectively. After use, there is no need for removal as the waveguide disappears over time.

A new technique which delivers light deeper into human tissue than previously possible has been developed by researchers at the University of St Andrews and Harvard Medical School. 

The new method, published in the journal Nature Communications, could help heal wounds faster and treat tumours more efficiently.

Through a process called photochemical bonding, is applied to a wound to stimulate healing. Until now this technique has been limited to treating superficial wounds. The researchers set out to develop a technology for that would allow this method to be applied deeper in the human body.

The international team found a way to make biodegradable optical fibres which can be inserted into the body to deliver light to heal internal wounds locally, for example after surgery.

Traditionally, fibre-optic devices or catheters have been fabricated from glass or plastic and remain in the body permanently or until removed through further surgical intervention. However, the St Andrews-Harvard research team shows how fibres can be made from materials that will be reabsorbed into the body, eliminating the need for removal and the risk of damaging the newly-repaired tissue. This advancement will give doctors the power to heal from within without scarring.

Professor Malte Gather, of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews, predicts that this breakthrough could have dramatic implications in medicine. He said: "A variety of optical techniques, such as photochemical tissue bonding and photodynamic therapy, require efficient delivery of light deep into tissues, but the current limited penetration of light in tissue constitutes a serious constraint in clinical use.

"Having biocompatible and bioabsorbable optical components may transform photomedicine from a discipline where light is predominantly applied externally, to a new paradigm based on tissue-integrated and precisely controlled delivery and collection of light."

The research could also find application in a variety of other areas, such as long-term photodynamic therapy (PDT) for cancer treatment, as well as implanted endoscopy after surgery for repeated imaging and monitoring of the healing process.

Explore further: Smart dressings speed healing of chronic wounds

More information: Sedat Nizamoglu et al. Bioabsorbable polymer optical waveguides for deep-tissue photomedicine, Nature Communications (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10374

Related Stories

Flipping the switch to better see cancer cells at depths

November 9, 2015

Using a high-tech imaging method, a team of biomedical engineers at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis was able to see early-developing cancer cells deeper in tissue than ever ...

Light-optics research could improve medical imaging

October 13, 2015

A team of researchers, including The University of Queensland's Dr Joel Carpenter, has developed echo-less lights that could improve medical imaging inside the body, leading to less-intrusive surgery.

Recommended for you

Why cryptophyte algae are really good at harvesting light

December 8, 2016

In an algae-eat-algae world, it's the single-celled photosynthetic organisms at the top (layer of the ocean) that absorb the most sunlight. Underneath, in the sublayers, are cryptophyte algae that must compete for photons ...

Oxygen can wake up dormant bacteria for antibiotic attacks

December 8, 2016

Bacterial resistance does not come just through adaptation to antibiotics, sometimes the bacteria simply go to sleep. An international team of researchers is looking at compounds that attack bacteria's ability to go dormant ...

Chemical trickery corrals 'hyperactive' metal-oxide cluster

December 8, 2016

After decades of eluding researchers because of chemical instability, key metal-oxide clusters have been isolated in water, a significant advance for growing the clusters with the impeccable control over atoms that's required ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.