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Plastic surgery is about to get a makeover

Scientists in Japan unveil ultrathin, biodegradable nanosheets that bind tissue together without leaving a scar.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
2 min read

Nanosheets are, by definition, ultrathin (nano being a billionth). But when scientists use the term "ultrathin nanosheet," they are being more than merely redundant.

Sealing with the PLLA nanosheet versus conventional suture/ligation treatment. Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co.

Around the world, scientists working on nanosheets are locked in a race to find ever-thinner materials to meet ever-growing demands, for surgeries and supercapacitors alike. The recent unveiling of a biodegradable nanosheet that is just 20 nanometers thick pushes the researchers at Tokyo's Waseda University to the front of the pack.

Professor Shinji Takeoka of the Department of Life Science & Medical Bio-Science at Waseda says that nanosheets have powerful features for tissue binding, such as high adhesiveness, flexibility, and transparency.

Applying nanosheets with poly-L-lactide (PLLA) to the incisions of mouse stomachs, the team found that these centimeter-long biodegradable nanosheets healed the incisions without scarring or tissue adhesion.

With collaboration from the National Defense Medical College, Takeoka's group published its findings in the journal Advanced Materials. What stand out about these particular nanosheets are not only their thinness but that, as Takeoka recently told Nanowerk:

"This approach would constitute an ideal candidate for an alternative to conventional suture/ligation procedures, from the perspective not only of a minimally invasive surgical technique but also reduction of operation times."

Today, Takeoka tells me by e-mail that his team's nanosheet could be applied "not only in the field of surgery as a wound dressing instead of conventional suturing operation, but also in the fields of plastic surgery, endoscopic surgery, regeneration medicine, and external use (skin etc.)." A wide range of medical applications looks promising.

This sounds like really great news, but it does beg the question: If one can get an eye lift over lunch break and forego gauze pads and ice packs altogether, do we call this progress?