About Sickkids
About SickKids
print        

September 29, 2010

Toronto scientists discover novel laser technique that could lead to near-scarless surgery

TORONTO – Wounds heal after surgery, but often the size of the scar can impact a patient in a variety of ways long after the operation. Large scars not only result in cosmetic deformities, but they can also create discomfort and cause long-term psychological stress and unhappiness.  Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Toronto have found a novel laser technique that could significantly reduce scarring after surgery. The study appears in the September 28 online edition of PLoS ONE.

The scientists compared a new surgical laser called Picosecond IR Laser (PIRL) to conventional surgical lasers and traditional surgical tools, such as scalpels. They found that using the PIRL in mice resulted in minimal scarring; in fact, the scars that resulted from this technique were half the width of those produced by traditional methods. The wounds also appeared to heal faster with PIRL surgery.

“Achieving minimal scarring is beneficial to patients, especially in cases where scarring can be particularly debilitating,” says Dr. Benjamin Alman, co-principal investigator of the study, Head of the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and Senior Scientist at SickKids and A.J. Latner Professor and Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Toronto.  “By reducing healing time this new surgical method could also result in increased patient comfort and lower risk of secondary infections due to surgery.”

The study’s co-principal investigator is University Professor Dwayne Miller of the Departments of Chemistry and Physics and the Institute of Optical Sciences at the University of Toronto.

Lasers are known for their precision; however, they have been limited in their use as a surgical tool because in many cases, the laser is more damaging to surrounding tissues than cutting with traditional surgical tools.  

 “One of the major stumbling blocks in using lasers for surgery is the collateral damage that is usually caused by thermal and shock waves to the area,” says Alman. “Traditional lasers tend to burn the tissue, but PIRL superheats the cutting area quicker. It vaporizes the tissue, resulting in less destruction to the cells.”

Researchers say this new technique looks promising and clinical trials in adult patients could take place as early as next year.

Alman’s lab would be relocated to the Cancer, Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine neighbourhood in the new SickKids Research & Learning Tower, which will encourage interactions with colleagues from other scientific disciplines.

The study is supported by the Collaborative Health Research Projects Program of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and SickKids Foundation.

About The Hospital for Sick Children
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally.  Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system.  SickKids is proud of its vision of Healthier Children. A Better World.™ For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca

About Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning 
The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning will bring together researchers from different scientific disciplines and a variety of clinical perspectives, to accelerate discoveries, new knowledge and their application to child health — a different concept from traditional research building designs. The facility will physically connect SickKids science, discovery and learning activities to its clinical operations. Designed by award-winning architects Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc. and HDR Inc. with a goal to achieve LEED® Gold Certification for sustainable design, the Gilgan Centre will create an architectural landmark as the eastern gateway to Toronto’s Discovery District. The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning is funded by a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Government of Ontario, philanthropist Peter Gilgan and community support for the ongoing fundraising campaign. For more information, please visit www.sickkidsfoundation.com/bepartofit.

For more information, please contact:

Matet Nebres
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-6380
email: matet.nebres@sickkids.ca

Suzanne Gold
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 2059
email: suzanne.gold@sickkids.ca