New Liquid Biomaterial Can Rebuild Faces Without Surgery

Doctors are testing a new liquid polymer that can be injected under the skin, molded and sculpted, then set in place with a LED array. Ultimately intended for use around the face, it sounds like a plastic surgeon's worst nightmare.

According to Technology Review, the compound is made of substances that are already used in cosmetic surgery, but has different properties than any before it.

It's a blend of hyaluronic acid-a biological material already used as a soft-tissue implant-and polyethylene glycol, a synthetic material. The blend is a liquid polymer that can be injected-thus avoiding the need for surgery. Once injected, the material can be sculpted into the necessary shape. When exposed to light of specific wavelengths, the messy tangle of polymer chains in the liquid implant rearrange into a stable, crosshatched form, stiffening the implant.

It only takes a few minutes in front of the LED light array before the material sets, and the procedure is generally pain-free once finished. Doctors recently completed a small trial in Canada, which was mostly successful (save for some unwanted inflammation), and they plan to launch a full-scale trial soon. [Technology Review]