A revolutionary new biomaterial could one day help people in need of facial reconstruction, without putting them through intensive surgery. The new material is injected under the skin as a liquid, massaged into the correct shape and then set into a solid with an LED light. The material — which is half natural and half synthetic — could replace current facial implants that often don’t fulfill the patients’ needs. The use of LED lights as part of the technology is also imperative, as the light is able to set the polymer without causing the potential damage to DNA and skin cells that UV light can cause.

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Researchers at Johns Hopkins University realized that there were metals and plastics that can replace bone, but a suitable replacement for soft facial tissue had not yet been created. They’ve published their findings, along with information from a small study in Science Translational Medicine. The injected biomaterial only takes 4 minutes of LED light exposure to permanently set and the only observed side-effect was some area swelling.

“To my knowledge, this is the furthest that such an approach has been taken, as the paper has extensive animal studies as well as pilot human studies,” said Ali Khademhosseini, an associate professor at Harvard-MIT’s Division of Health Sciences and Technology. “I am hopeful that the paper will yield to a new generation of biomaterials-based applications in soft-tissue replacement,” Khademhosseini says.

The researchers are currently working on launching a full-scale clinical trial that will help them bring this technology to the clinical level, they’re also researching ways to minimize the amount of synthetic material used in the procedure.

Via Gizmodo