Laser Surgery Probe Precise Enough to Target Individual Cancer Cells

The University of Texis at Austin reports that Professor Adela Ben-Yakar and colleagues have developed a femtosecond laser “microscalpel” that is so precise that it can destroy a single cell while leaving nearby cells intact.  According to the article:

“Within a few years, Ben-Yakar expects to shrink the probe’s 15-millimeter diameter three-fold, so it would match endoscopes used today for laparoscopic surgery. The probe tip she has developed alsocould be made disposable — for use operating on people who have infectious diseases or destroying deadly viruses and other biomaterials.” 

“Femtosecond lasers produce extremely brief, high-energy light pulses
that sear a targeted cell so quickly and accurately the lasers’ heat
has no time to escape and damage nearby healthy cells. As a result, the
medical community envisions the lasers’ use for more accurate
destruction of many types of unhealthy material. These include small
tumors of the vocal cords, cancer cells left behind after the removal
of solid tumors, individual cancer cells scattered throughout brain or
other tissue and plaque in arteries.”

“A commercially available femtosecond laser system and microscope was developed recently for LASIK and other eye surgeries, but the system’s bulk limits its usefulness. Ben-Yakar’s laboratory has overcome technological challenges to create a microscope system that can deliver
femtosecond laser pulses up to 250 microns deep inside tissue. The
system includes a tiny, flexible probe that focuses light pulses to a
spot size smaller than human cells.”

Adela Ben-Yakar has had success using similar laser devices to cut the connections (the axons) between individual nerve cells in a hunt for genes that control nerve regrowth after injury.

Singularity Hub Staff
Singularity Hub Staff
Singularity Hub chronicles technological progress by highlighting the breakthroughs and issues shaping the future as well as supporting a global community of smart, passionate, action-oriented people who want to change the world.
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