Medicine: Safer Stitches

For more than 18 centuries, the world's surgeons have mainly used catgut to stitch up their patients. The chief reason is that the body's enzymes can absorb catgut (actually made from cattle and sheep intestines), and the sutures usually disappear within 90 days. Because the material consists of animal protein, though, it has one flaw: it causes inflammation around the very wound it is supposed to heal.

Now a completely absorbable, non-irritating suture material has been developed at Lederle Laboratories' Davis and Geck Division in Pearl River, N.Y. To create the catgut substitute, which is trade-named Dexon, chemists tested 225...

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