COVER STORY:Life Innovation
Caption: The nanosheet bandages are made from polylactide, the same material as is used in surgical sutures.
Credit: TADASHO AIZAWA
Breakthroughs in Medical Science
Japanese researchers are bringing major improvements to surgical procedures in the operating room.
In July 2009, a research team at Waseda University led by Professor Shinji Takeoka announced it had succeeded in developing “nanosheet” bandages for internal organs which, at only 75 nanometers, are the thinnest in the world.
In animal tests, nanosheets were affixed to holes in the animals’ lungs, which were about six millimeters across. The sheets stretched and contracted as the lungs moved, blocking the hole for a week.
“With the sheet adhesives that were previously used to cover wounds there was a possibility that they would adhere to other organs, causing pain or bleeding. However, this problem does not occur with the extremely thin nanosheets because nanosheets attach securely to the affected area without having to use a drug to act as a kind of ‘glue.’ Also, nanosheets do not need to be removed because they eventually dissolve within the body,” explains Professor Takeoka. “In two years’ time we plan to start human trials.”
The latest endoscope and electric scalpel from Olympus, which was commercialized in 2008 and is already being used for medical procedures. The tip of the endoscope has a CCD camera, a light and a nozzle for supplying air or water.
Credit: TADASHO AIZAWA
Olympus has developed an endoscope and peripheral device that makes it possible to perform ESD (endoscopic submucosal dissection) operations. Olympus was the first company to develop gastrocameras, and still maintains a 70% share of the global market for medical digestive endoscopes. ESD, a surgical technique using a small electric scalpel protruding from the end of the endoscope, is used to remove diseased tissues such as cancers. Previously, abdominal incisions had to be made in order to remove even the smallest tumors, but this new endoscope procedure makes it possible to perform surgery from inside the body by inserting it through the patient’s mouth or anus.
“Surgeons can perform operations using the controller as they watch the image from the endoscope,” a public relations officer of Olympus explains. “In the future we are aiming to upgrade the endoscopes such as by improving image quality to help doctors’ diagnoses and reducing discomfort for the patients undergoing tests or treatments.”