Scientists at Tel Aviv University are testing use of laser beams to seal surgical incisions, allowing skin and internal tissue to heal more quickly after operations and accidents.
"The technique of sewing the human body with needle and thread is an old one that has existed for thousand of years," said Prof. Abraham Katzir.
Ambulance medics may be able to use the new technique to close wounds quickly and safely at the scene of accidents.
The new method leaves less scarring than traditional stitches and helps give the wound better protection against infection.
"Sutures or stitches are not watertight, and blood or urine can pass through cuts, causing severe infection," Katzir said.
The use of lasers to heal surgical wounds was first proposed decades ago, but the early prototypes burned the skin and the tests were abandoned.
Katzir's new technique of skin welding avoids that problem because it uses a smart laser that corrects its own temperature as it works.
The new device has already been tested successfully in clinical trials on patients undergoing gall bladder operations in Israel.
Researchers believe it could be especially useful for plastic surgery and for sealing battlefield wounds on contact.
"It could allow soldiers to heal each other on contact with a laser wand," Katzir said.
The laser skin welding uses a special biological glue smeared on the two sides of the incision.
A laser warms it to the correct temperature to make the glue thicken and create a hard shell that protects the wound and allows it to heal while blocking germs.