While we're busy fumbling through dark corridors and navigating twisting platforms searching for health packs, food, and other esoteric life-saving items, the Air Force is healing wounds with lasers and nanotechnology.

Even the futuristic space adventurers in Star Trek Online are chowing down on food to help regain health, while our military pioneers technology that makes some of the most advanced science fiction healing techniques seem barbaric. As Wired's Danger Room points out, military scientists are already working on spray-on human skin and exploring the possibility of stem cell-based healing, and now they're pulling out the nanites and lasers.

The nano-tech project, run by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers Irene Kochevar, Robert Redmond and Sandy Tsao, has been on the receiving end of funding from various Department of Defense organizations for the past 8 years, and it's produced some spectacular results. Instead of using staples or stitches, a patient's wound is coated in a dye and then exposed to green light from a laser. The dye absorbs the light, catalyzing molecular bonds in the wound's collagen, or connective tissue. The resulting watertight seal prevents inflammation and infection while encouraging faster growth of scar tissue.

For those of you having trouble following all that, they shoot a handheld laser at the wound and it seals. The process takes 2-3 minutes, but it's much cooler if you imagine it happening instantaneously.

The process has already been used successfully in 31 clinical trials, and researches are also experimenting with using the dye and laser combination to create a patch, perfect for temporarily sealing more invasive wounds until proper treatment can be administered.

"We're so close to these processes being used," Kochevar said. "But FDA approval is still a real hurdle."

While waiting on the Food and Drug Administration, the team sets their sights on bigger thing, seeking funding for research into repairing nerves using the process.


Of course lasers are no stranger to video games, and nanotechnology weighs heavily in many titles, including the Metal Gear Solid series, Ratchet and Clank, and Crysis. id's upcoming fame Rage uses nano machines to heal your body, defibrillating you should you go down.

Still, plenty of games still use the good old health pack, edible pick-ups, or my personal favorite, The Chronicles of Riddick's spike-to-the-neck healing mechanism. I'm just glad the nanotechnology caught the military's eye before it got its hands on Assault on Dark Athena.

Air Force Treating Wounds With Lasers and Nanotech [Wired's Danger Room]