A novel approach for the immediate sealing of traumatic wounds is under development. A portable microwave generator and handheld antenna are used to seal wounds, binding the edges of the wound together using a biodegradable protein sealant or “solder.” This method could be used for repairing wounds in emergency settings, by restoring the wound surface to its original strength within minutes. This technique could also be utilized for surgical purposes involving solid visceral organs (i.e., liver, spleen, and kidney) that currently do not respond well to ordinary surgical procedures.

A miniaturized microwave generator and a handheld antenna are used to deliver microwave energy to the protein solder, which is applied to the wound. The antenna can be of several alternative designs optimized for placement either in contact with or proximity to the protein solder covering the wound. In either case, optimization of the design includes the matching of impedances to maximize the energy delivered to the protein solder and wound at a chosen frequency. For certain applications, an antenna could be designed that would emit power only when it is in direct contact with the wound.

The optimum frequency or frequencies for a specific application would depend on the required depth of penetration of the microwave energy. In fact, a computational simulation for each specific application could be performed, which would then match the characteristics of the antenna with the protein solder and tissue to best effect wound closure. An additional area of interest with potential benefit that remains to be validated is whether microwave energy can effectively kill bacteria in and around the wound. Thus, this may be an efficient method for simultaneously sterilizing and closing wounds.

Using microwave energy to seal wounds has a number of advantages over lasers, which are currently in experimental use in some hospitals. Laser tissue welding is unsuitable for emergency use because its large, bulky equipment cannot be easily moved between operating rooms, let alone relocated to field sites where emergencies often occur. In addition, this approach is highly dependent on the uniformity and thickness of the protein solder as well as the surgeon’s skills. In contrast, the use of microwave energy is highly tolerant of the thickness of the protein solder, level of fluids in and around the wound, and other parameters that can adversely affect the outcome of laser welding. However, controlling the depth of penetration of the microwave energy into the wound is critical for achieving effective wound sealing without damaging the adjacent tissue. In addition, microspheres that encapsulate metallic cores could also be incorporated into the protein solder to further control the depth of penetration of the microwave energy.

This work was performed by G. Dickey Arndt, Phong H. Ngo, Chau T. Phan, and Diane Byerly of Johnson Space Center, John Dusl of Jacobs Sverdrup, Marguerite A. Sognier of Universities Space Research Association, and Jim Carl of Advanced Electromagnetics. For further information, contact the JSC Innovation Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809.

This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to

the Patent Counsel
Johnson Space Center
(281) 483-1003.

Refer to MSC-24238-1.