Beams of light were shown in preclinical studies to gel a liquidthat may be used to prevent surgical scarring, a scientistassociated with Focal Inc. reported Thursday at the nationalmeeting of the American Chemical Society.

Jeffrey Hubbell is acting director of materials research at theprivate Cambridge, Mass., company and associate professor ofchemical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, whichlicenses the gel to the company.

The gel is introduced through minimal incisions with a toolcontaining a liquid spray device and fiber optic tubes that pipelight to the fluid. Made of 95 percent water, the fluid shouldnot irritate the tissue, Hubbell said, and conforms to the surfaceof organs smoothly. It breaks down within days and is aborbed,thus avoiding the need for removal.

Inhibiting post-surgical adhesions has an estimated potentialU.S. market of $500 million and another $500 million marketabroad.

The gel contains polyethylene glycol, lactic acid and acrylate,which have established uses, respectively, in medical products,sutures, and dental resins and anti-fungal ointments.

Current methods to prevent post-surgical adhesions includebarriers containing such materials as regenerated cellulose andhyaluronic acid. But these materials may either causeinflammation or fail to conform or adhere properly.

Another use for the gel may be as a "depot" of site-specificdrugs, said Mark Levin, president and chief executive officer ofFocal.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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