With medical tape, no pain means great gain. Medical tapes that affix breathing tubes and other life-saving devices to the skin are not only sticky, they are strong. After all, they must resist both wear and the shear forces between skin and tape that might dislodge the attached vital equipment. For babies and elderly patients, however, the tape itself poses a danger. When it is peeled off, it can tear sensitive skin and lead to discomfort and sometimes permanent scarring or worse. In the US, medical tape removal is responsible for 1.5 million injuries annually. To address the problem, a team led by Jeffrey Karp (Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT) designed a tape that takes advantage of today’s effective, nonirritating adhesives and durable backings, but that can be removed without injuring skin. Their innovation was to coat the backing with a nonadhesive layer and then use a laser to...

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