Surgery without stitches wins major grant

Associate Professor John Foster
Thursday, 28 January, 2010
Bob Beale

A new technology to seal surgical wounds without needles and stitches has been awarded a major Federal Government grant to help its development for delicate brain surgery.

A team led by Associate Professor John Foster of the UNSW Bio/Polymer Research Group (BRG), in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences,  and Professor Marcus Stoodley a neurosurgeon from Macquarie University, has been awarded $213,000 as one of only 17 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Development Grants.

Professor Foster's team is investigating potential applications of the world's first thin-film surgical adhesive that uses a unique combination of laser technology and biomaterials. Known as SurgiLux®, it is a natural, environmentally friendly, strong, flexible film that is compatible with living tissue and is based on the US Food and Drug Administration-approved chitosan, a biomaterial derived from crustacean shells. The film is simply placed over a wound or surgical incision and activated with a conventional infra-red clinical laser to effect closure.

The new grant is develop the technique to effectively close and seal wounds to replace sutures in delicate surgery close to the brain.

Wound closure in the cranium still relies on sutures or "stitches", which can lead to infections and other medical complications.

"The application of SurgiLux® technology will both close and seal these wounds quickly and easily, with significant health and economic benefits," said the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mr Mark Butler, when he announced the new grant today.

"NHMRC Development Grants provide funding for the commercialisation of health and medical research projects, taking the next step in progressing research out of the laboratory and putting it into practical use," Mr Butler said.

He said the grants, which will assist researchers to bring their projects to market, were an important step in creating tangible outcomes that will benefit both Australia and the world.

The BRG team is now working in collaboration with colleagues elsewhere to explore the potential for new biomedical materials and devices that may be more suitable not only for closing wounds but to effect other surgical joins and seals.

SurgiLux® also has been successfully applied in vivo to repair sciatic nerves in rats and has achieved results suggesting that it actually promotes healthy cell division and possibly even differentiation in some adult stem cells.

Media contacts:
John Foster
Bob Beale 0411 705 435