Lasers, Magnets and 3D maps…Zapping Your Fat Goes High Tech

Lipo Control in action – Cannula is inserted under the skin and display (bottom left) maps what areas have been treated.

Looking to get rid of your love handles, or perhaps an extra chin?  Be ready to, quite literally, feel the burn.  Okay so you don’t actually feel the burn (thank you, anesthetics) but Osyris Medical’s newly FDA approved Lipo Control device uses a laser to melt your fat cells, then whisks them away to a biohazard container, never to bother you again.  While the concept of liposuction is nothing new, the folks over at Osyris have streamlined the process using a magnetic field and realitme 3D tracking to map the treatment area, as well as the dosage administered at each point.  Their patented technology has transformed the typical blunt force trauma assult on your fat cells to a smooth and controlled process that makes shedding a pound or two easier than ever before.  But is this really a good thing?  Come on people, what ever happened to good old fashioned exercise?

As recently reported here at Singularity Hub – Americans are fat.  For the truly lazy among us, liposuction has always promised a fast solution to the weight loss problem.  It is no surprise that in today’s instant gratification seeking society, people would rather spend money to do it the easy way than put in the time and energy to do it the right way.  Naturally, the cosmetic surgery industry is more than happy to oblige, coming up with faster, easier and more effective ways to slim down.  Lipo Control is the newest tool in their arsenal, and yet another testament to the fact that technology is permeating even the superfluous parts of our society.

The base technology here is laser lypolysis.  If you have ever seen video of traditional liposuction, then you know it’s no picnic (ha- eating, liposuction… get it?).  The doctor inserts a blunt tipped cannula (hollow tube that is inserted under the skin), and using physical force alone, blindly rams into your fat tissue to physically break it up and then suck it away.  As you can imagine, this leads to bruising and swelling in the treatment area, not to mention that skin is left saggy when it is no longer inflated with fat.  Adding a laser to the tip of the cannula greatly improves on traditional methods.  Fatty tissue absorbs energy most efficiently in the 900-1100 nm range, so adding a 980 nm diode laser into the device selectively melts your fat cells, leaving surrounding tissue intact.  The liquid fat is then sucked out of your body.  The heat produced by the laser also stimulates collagen production and skin tightening in the area of the procedure.

Many companies, including Osyris, already sell laser lipolysis machines, so you may be wondering what all of the hubbub is about.  Its Osyris’s patented magnetic tracking and dosage control technology.  Each Lipo Control machine emits its own magnetic field, and the handle of the cannula contains a sensor that allows the machine to calculate in realtime the 3D position and 3D angle of inclination of the cannula – sort of like your Nintendo Wii remote.  Having first mapped out the area to be treated, the physician then moves the cannula around within that space.  The position information is used to show the physician which areas have already been treated.  And that isn’t all, the machine also monitors the dosage to the treated areas.  The colored lines that are displayed on the screen indicating an area has been treated vary in brightness, and this brightness corresponds to the dosage at that particular spot.

So instead of randomly poking around under your skin, the doctor can actually see where he has already been and how much energy was delivered to that area.  Its easy to see how this technology could revolutionize the liposuction procedure.   With smaller incisions and less damage done to surrounding tissue, you could instantly lose a pound or two with this body sculpting technique, and be back at work the next day.  The procedure itself is faster too – a map of where you’ve been ensures that you aren’t re-treating already liquefied fat.  Visit the Lipo Control website to check out videos of the device in action.

All of this sounds pretty great, but don’t run off to your local cosmetic surgery office just yet.  The average cost of treatment with Osyris’s Lipo Control will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4000 dollars.  That is a bit cheaper than traditional liposuction, which usually starts around $6000, but still quite a chunk of change.  Despite the price tag, Laser lipolysis is quickly becoming popular – according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over 198,000 procedures were performed in 2009 alone.  That is a little bit crazy, especially because Lipolysis is recommended for people who already exercise and eat right – the idea being that the treatment will sculpt and tone your body.  It seems that the pursuit of perfection has no limits, and fear not fellow scientists, there is math to support that claim.  Since 2000, breast augmentations have increased by 36%, Botox injections have increased by an astronomical 509% and tummy tucks have increased by a whopping 84% in the United States.  Will the rat race never cease?

In today’s society where first impressions are everything and youth reigns supreme, people will do anything to get an edge.  Are you ready to feel the burn?  With technological advances like these, liposuction and other cosmetic procedures are becoming safer and more effective than ever before.  We each have to decide which (if any) of these technological advances is right for us.   Personally, if I ever see anything resembling a second chin staring me down in the mirror, I will be making an appointment faster than you can blink.  While I’m not a fan of lipo in lieu of a healthy lifestyle, sometimes there are certain areas that just won’t budge.  So, if you are in great shape but have a stubborn jiggle that won’t go away (and a few thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket), Lipo Control will melt away your problem.

[image credits: Osyris Medical]

[Source: Osyris Medical]

Whitney Ijem
Whitney Ijem
Whitney's thesis research revolved around creating a 3D patch of skeletal muscle tissue from stem cells and much more.
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