Light It Up, Baby: Glow-in-the-Dark Surgery in The Works

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This gives the phrase “lit from within” a whole new meaning.

A new, fluorescent liquid is being developed by researchers at the University of California’s San Diego School of Medicine that would, once injected, cause a patient’s nerves to “glow”, allowing surgeons to more easily avoid nicking them during surgery.

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The substance “consists of a protein fragment containing amino acids,” according to the Daily Mail, and has been effective in preliminary experiments on mice, rendering nerves about ten times more visible to the naked eye than normal, with no known side effects.

One of the researchers, Professor Roger Tsien, said that the new liquid would be much more effective in outlining the nerves to avoid during surgery.

“The analogy I use is that when construction workers are excavating, they need a map showing where the existing underground electrical cables are actually buried, not just old plans of questionable accuracy,” he said. “Likewise when surgeons are taking out tumours, they need a live map showing where the nerves are actually located, not just a static diagram of where they usually lie in the average patient.”

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Surgeons usually avoid nerves while operating guided solely by their knowledge of the human body. However, this can lead to problems as nerve location can vary slightly from one person to the next. Another method used to avoid nerves is electromyographic monitoring which uses electrodes to find major nerves but the smaller ones still go undetected.

The fluorescent liquid hasn’t been through human testing yet, but if it proves successful the method could prevent the majority of accidental nerve damage during surgery. (via Daily Mail)

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