Traditional surgical methods involve cutting and suturing to reshape an ear or nose, follow by scars and long recovery period. But now, scientists have identified an innovative mechanism, known as “molecular surgery” that utilizes tiny needles, electric current, and 3D-printed patterns to immediately reshape the living tissues with no surgical cuts, stitches, and hence no recovery time. The method even shows promising results inefficiently fixing immobile joints.
At the recently held event, ACS (the American Chemical Society) Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition, the scientists illustrated their research findings.
The researchers used an infrared beam to heat up the cartilage so that it can become flexible enough to reshape. The problem is that the technique is costly and it’s quite challenging to heat the cartilage to the extent that it becomes flexible and do not kill the live tissue. To discover a more realistic approach, the researchers passed the current through cartilage to heat it up. Easy reshaping of the tissues without warming could be done with this technique.
Cartilage is composed of tiny rigid fibers of collagen loosely entangled by biopolymers. Cartilage also comprises positively charged sodium ions as well as negatively charged proteins. Cartilage with higher charge density is stiffer than a lower charge density cartilage. The researchers found that by passing an electric current through cartilage, water in the tissue gets electrolyzed, releasing hydrogen and oxygen ions. The hydrogen ions neutralize the negative charge on the proteins and reduce the charge density making the cartilage more flexible.
The researchers tried the procedure on a rabbit by bending its one ear into a different shape using a mold. When they simply removed the mold without passing a current through the cartilage using needles, the rabbit’s ear retained back into its original shape and position. However, when the pulsating current was passed through the molt-integrated bent ear, the cartilage became soft. After turning off the current flow, the cartilage became firm again in a new shape and the mold can be later removed.