Photonics – the science of shining light on damaged tissue to aid healing – may have a brighter future following the development of optical fibres that can be absorbed by the body. Pictured is a device called an optical waveguide, made from a biodegradable polymer. In this experiment, it's inserted into pig skin and is delivering green light to speed up the activity of cells that have healing properties. Unlike optical devices made from glass or hard plastic, the waveguide can safely be left inside the body to slowly dissolve, rather like internal stitches. This technique could allow photonics to be applied to injuries deep inside the body, not just surface wounds as at present. Treatment of tumours, which can sometimes be shrunk by photonics if the patient is first dosed with a light-activated drug, may also be enhanced.
Written by Mick Warwicker
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