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Surgical stitches have been in use for the past 4,000 years. Complications can arise from sutures from the invasive stitches/sutures because they can fail to seal the incision fully and sometimes can act as a source of infection.

Surgical glues have the advantage of not being invasive, but the gel-like substance that bonds to the tissue is often uneven, which results in leakages and are not easy to use. The strongest surgical glue is so toxic that it is limited to external applications.

Other devices seal an incision using UV light, which can damage living cells.

Researcher John Foster, Biopolymer Research Group, University of New South Wales, Australia, has developed a thin polymer film 50 microns thick. The thin film is placed on a surgical wound and exposed to an infrared laser, which heats the film just enough to meld it with the tissue, perfectly sealing the wound. The device’s raw material is extracted from crab shells and has the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval.

Of particular interest is the use of the new polymer film in brain surgery. Nearly 11% of brain surgery patients have to return for repeat surgery due to leakage of cerebro-spinal (CSF) fluid, and other complications. Also, the new polymer film applies an even seal without the leakage that occurs in the other processes. Animal test results have shown the polymer film provides some degree of permanent nerve recovery within 6 weeks of operating.

The researchers will begin clinical trials once commercial funding has been secured.