Who Needs Health Packs When We've Got Lasers And Nanotech?

While we're busy fumbling through dark corridors and navigating twisting platforms searching for health packs, food and other esoteric life-saving items, the Air Force is healing wounds with lasers and nanotechnology.

Even the futuristic space adventurers in Star Trek Online are chowing down on food to help regain health, while our military pioneers technology that makes some of the most advanced science fiction healing techniques seem barbaric. As Wired's Danger Room points out, military scientists are already working on spray-on human skin and exploring the possibility of stem cell-based healing, and now they're pulling out the nanites and lasers.

The nano-tech project, run by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers Irene Kochevar, Robert Redmond and Sandy Tsao, has been on the receiving end of funding from various Department of defence organisations for the past eight years, and it's produced some spectacular results. Instead of using staples or stitches, a patient's wound is coated in a dye and then exposed to green light from a laser. The dye absorbs the light, catalysing molecular bonds in the wound's collagen, or connective tissue. The resulting watertight seal prevents inflammation and infection while encouraging faster growth of scar tissue.

For those of you having trouble following all that, they shoot a handheld laser at the wound and it seals. The process takes 2-3 minutes, but it's much cooler if you imagine it happening instantaneously.

The process has already been used successfully in 31 clinical trials, and researches are also experimenting with using the dye and laser combination to create a patch, perfect for temporarily sealing more invasive wounds until proper treatment can be administered.

"We're so close to these processes being used," Kochevar said. "But FDA approval is still a real hurdle."

While waiting on the Food and Drug Administration, the team sets their sights on bigger thing, seeking funding for research into repairing nerves using the process.

Of course lasers are no stranger to video games, and nanotechnology weighs heavily in many titles, including the Metal Gear Solid series, Ratchet and Clank, and Crysis. id's upcoming fame Rage uses nano machines to heal your body, defibrillating you should you go down.

Still, plenty of games still use the good old health pack, edible pick-ups, or my personal favourite, The Chronicles of Riddick's spike-to-the-neck healing mechanism. I'm just glad the nanotechnology caught the military's eye before it got its hands on Assault on Dark Athena.

Air Force Treating Wounds With Lasers and Nanotech [Wired's Danger Room]

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Comments

    just to allay some of the fears i'm noticing here in this thread i'd thought i'd post something as a doctor...

    firstly, the question of silver buildup in the body... well, we use silver based dressing all the time to heal any major wound. and given what i've read of the actual work being done here, we're already using silver in far far greater quantities than those seen used here. also, we have a wonderous thing known as the blood brain barrier that prevents a lot of things being able to get through to the brain... but moving right along...

    the question of using nanotech in medicine... well, its been being used for quite some time - its just not quite as apparent as you may think. a lot of neurosurgery these days happens with fibre optic cameras and incredibly tiny instruments. although the instruments themselves aren't the direct products of nanotechnology, they're all things that have been developed through nanotech research. and we've been using most of these tools for at least a decade or so now... back before i started studying medicine at least.

    and even if there were some concern about the implications of introducting foreign bodies into the human body for whatever purpose - well, the human body has dozens of mechanisms for expelling forgein objects. and almost all of them become increasingly more effective the small the object you're talking about. some things barely even get changed by the human body and just pass right on through (like the pill cam, a camera in the shape of a pill that you can swallow and it takes photos at regular intervals as it passes through your bowels) and others just get pushed out as the body heals (like stitches. if you keep them in long enough and you don't get an infection around the site, your skin will basically just push them out and they'll fall off).

    a lot of what actually gets out into media circulation in medical research has actually already been being developed for at least 5-10 years and has mountains of data and research behind it. its almost impossible to even start human trials of anything without going through at least a few years worth of animal trials.

    *sighs* the fear and paranoia of the unknown that people have with new technology just seems to resonate back to the luddite days - "omg~ a steam engine~ but it'll come to life and kill everyone!" an over exaggeration, but that was the basic thought process that a huge chunk of people shared and almost brought an end to the industrial revolution that we owe almost all modern technology to...

    just my 2c worth~

    I see us heading the way of Surrogates more than anything.

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