Medicine: Death to Dead Tissues

The treatment of wounds involves a problem of simple housecleaning—the removal of dead tissue that may promote infection. This process, which doctors call debridement, is surgically difficult even in external wounds because of the danger of injury to the live tissue. Army surgeons in World War I, borrowing a trick from medieval doctors, put maggots to work on the job. The maggots ate or dissolved the festering dead cells and stopped short when they reached live tissue. But maggots are hard to collect and difficult to handle.

Last week two teams of doctors described chemicals that are as efficient as maggots at...

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