Saturday, September 01, 2007

Star Trek Becoming Reality

Scientist are working on faster-than-light travel and even transporters, while Star-Trek-style 'communicators' are virtually passe. But how about a device to heal wounds using sound waves:

In this case, Engineers at the University of Washington are testing a device that uses multiple lenses to focus high-intensity ultrasound beams at a particular spot inside the body on the patient's lungs. Focusing the ultrasound beams, in a process similar to focusing sunlight with a magnifying glass, creates a tiny but extremely hot spot about the size and shape of a grain of rice. The rays heat the blood cells until they form a seal. Meanwhile the tissue between the device and the spot being treated does not get hot, as it would with a laser beam, researchers said in a statement.

High-intensity focused ultrasound promises "bloodless surgery" with no scalpels or sutures. Doctors would pass a sensor over the patient and use invisible rays to heal the wound. The findings from tests with the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle suggest that ultrasound might replace what is now a painful, invasive procedure. Lung injuries are relatively common because the chest is a big surface that's often exposed to crushing or puncture wounds.Recent tests on pigs' lungs showed that high-intensity ultrasound sealed the leaks in one or two minutes. More than 95% of the 70 incisions were stable after two minutes of treatment, according to results published this summer in the Journal of Trauma.

The article likens it to a tricorder, but the tricorder was merely a sensing device (as far as I can recall). Devices that fixed broken bones and otherwise healed wounds barely warranted more than a mention in Star Trek -- in fact, it might just have been in one or more of the movies.

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