Medical

"Molecular surgery" reshapes cartilage while sparing the scalpel

"Molecular surgery" reshapes c...
While the technology could be utilized for cosmetic procedures such as rhinoplasty (pictured above), it may also find use on tendons or corneas
While the technology could be utilized for cosmetic procedures such as rhinoplasty (pictured above), it may also find use on tendons or corneas
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While the technology could be utilized for cosmetic procedures such as rhinoplasty (pictured above), it may also find use on tendons or corneas
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While the technology could be utilized for cosmetic procedures such as rhinoplasty (pictured above), it may also find use on tendons or corneas

Currently, in order to reshape cartilage such as that within the nose, incisions and subsequent sutures are typically required. Not only is the procedure invasive, but it can also result in scarring. Now, however, scientists have demonstrated a new method of cartilage-reshaping that requires no cutting.

First of all, there already is a procedure in which an infrared laser is used to heat up cartilage, making it malleable enough to be molded into the desired shape. According to the University of California-Irvine's Dr. Brian Wong, however, the process is expensive, plus it's difficult the heat the cartilage sufficiently without killing it.

Seeking a better alternative, his team joined forces with Dr. Michael Hill from Los Angeles-based Occidental College.

The researchers ultimately developed a technique that they call "molecular surgery," which begins with tiny needles being inserted into the cartilage. These are used to pass an electrical current through the tissue. This electrolyzes water present in the cartilage, converting it into oxygen and hydrogen ions – the latter are also known as protons.

The positive electrical charge of the protons proceeds to cancel the negative charge of proteins contained within the cartilage's rigid collagen fibers. This reduces those fibers' charge density, temporarily causing them to become soft and malleable – they're still linked to one another, however, by biopolymers.

At this point, a 3D-printed mold is externally applied to the nose or other appendage. The softened cartilage conforms to the shape of the mold, proceeding to harden into that shape as the electrolyzing effect wears off. In a lab test, the technique has already been used to reshape the cartilage in a rabbit's ear.

"We envision this new technique as a low-cost office procedure done under local anesthesia," says Hill. "The whole process would take about five minutes."

Down the road, it is hoped that the technology could be utilized not only for cosmetic procedures, but also as an alternative to surgery for deviated septums, and for addressing problems in other collagen-based tissues such as tendons and corneas. In fact, the scientists have successfully altered the curve of a cornea, using an electrode-equipped 3D-printed contact lens to pass current through it.

The research was presented this week, at the American Chemical Society Spring 2019 National Meeting and Exposition.

Source: American Chemical Society

6 comments
guzmanchinky
Very cool! I woner if it could be used to treat snoring/apnea?
BrianK56
Great news, not so long ago the primeval method of breaking the nose with metal instruments was the norm.
zr2s10
This would be awesome for vision correction. Sounds like it would be more painless, faster healing, and safer than the current methods. Can't wait to see how this one pans out.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Maybe this could fix joint problems caused by shortened tendons.
WagTheSchmoo
This MIRACLE is 51 years TOO LATE for me! In 1968 I had rhinoplasty for a HUGE, banana-shaped nose (like Cher's used to be) and I found a surgeon who SEEMED to be the best in Denver. My simple surgery to straighten my nose like Paul Newman's and to fix my double deviated septums turned into a 3-hour ordeal, during which I was fully awake and talking. The doctor started by trimming the bump off my nose and then messing with the TIP of my nose (something I'd NOT asked for), and I was told he was just making it symmetrical. After my "nose trimming" was complete, the doctor POUNDED on my head with HAMMER and CHISEL for TWO HOURS to get through my septums, with little luck. After 3 hours my nose started swelling, and he sounded nervous and said he couldn't go further because of it. That night my posterior sinuses hemorrhaged so badly that I awoke in a bed flooded with blood with blood gushing from my mouth, nose, and even tear ducts. I was rushed at top speed to an operating room and given a "double posterior pack" procedure, meanwhile filling bucket after bucket with blood until the packs were complete. Quite a shocking experience. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital with such incredible head pain that I needed a hypo shot every 4 hours. After 84 hypos, they didn't work anymore, so I was given large doses of Librium (a tranquilizer). Near the end of my stay, two nurses dragged me around the corridors to teach me to walk again (I was 27 and just out of the USAF as a Captain and Minuteman Missile Launch Officer and Engineer ... in the PEAK of health when I walked into that hospital). My mom, immediately after she heard of my surgery, quit her job as a top secretary at Playboy HQ in Chicago and MOVED to Denver and got a nice apartment ... all in two days. When I was released, she took care of me for about a month until I could be on my own. She was truly an ANGEL all her life and finally succumbed in '17 at age 98. I was so lucky to have her. I had to sell my wonderful sports car to pay for the surgery, and when the dressings were removed from my face two weeks later, I was stunned, shocked, and murderously angry to see that I now had a TURNED UP NOSE like some girl ... I looked like a PIG. I also became addicted unknowingly to the Librium and was on it for five years before switching to Valium, which I was on for another seven years before I discovered (NEVER having been told by ANY doctor) that I was ADDICTED, and the terrible effects of withdrawal were causing my problems, NOT some disease or mental problem. Finally, a doctor to the movie stars in Hollywood (discovered in an LA newspaper article) got me on the track to wean myself from the drug, which was successful but took many months. This could have been done 12 years earlier if ANY doctor I saw (among many in the USA and England) had ever mentioned it. So you can see how this new medical advance will prevent the possibility of the PURE HELL like I went through for those who need a nose job or some other procedure which this new technique can be used for. You who get to enjoy this procedure should consider yourselves EXTREMELY FORTUNATE for this MIRACLE.
adelaine
Killer. However, cheaper doedn't suit cosmetic surgeons.