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updated 10/26/2012 2:49:27 PM ET 2012-10-26T18:49:27

"I had to get 10 stitches!" may become a playground boast of the past. Australian researchers have created a laser-activated stick-on patch designed to replace stitches for wounds. The patch, called SurgiLux, is a kind of biological Band-Aid — it's made from a material derived from chitin, the stuff that lends stiffness to crab shells and insect exoskeletons. 

SurgiLux is still under development in lab, but its creators are hoping it will work better than stitches or sutures for some wounds and surgeries because it sits on top of the skin, instead of threading underneath.

"Though sutures have a superior strength to SurgiLux, sutures are physically invasive," John Foster, a biotech researcher at the University of New South Wales who is working on SurgiLux,  said in a statement. "SurgiLux is a thin film, so you do not end up with any physical invasion or further damage to the tissue, thus allowing more-complete healing."'

SurgiLux could be especially helpful for  delicate operations, Foster thinks. He's performing experiments to see whether the patch might be used to close incisions from eye surgery.

SurgiLux's  chitin -derived polymer naturally sticks slightly to skin; a laser is needed to strengthen the seal. After placing a SurgiLux strip on a wound, researchers aim an infrared laser at it.

Forster has tested SurgiLux on pieces of cow tissue, showing that Surgilux strips remain stuck to the tissue when stretched. 

SurgiLux isn't the first stick-on patch for wounds. Several surgery adhesives are already available for doctors. The U.S. spends more than $5 billion on such products a year, Foster and a New South Wales doctoral student, Elizabeth Karsten,  wrote in a paper  appearing Oct. 23 in the Journal of Visualized Experiments. 

Unlike some stick-on suture replacements on the market, Foster and Karsten wrote, SurgiLux wouldn't require patients to wait for it to set. In addition, unlike the ultraviolet lasers that other strips use, the infrared laser needed for a SurgiLux seal doesn't carry the risk of damaging tissue, they wrote. 

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