Researchers in Tennessee have developed lasers that can map and then destroy cancerous tumors without damaging surrounding tissue.
The technology uses a femtosecond laser, pulsing at speeds of one-quadrillionth of a second. Its speed allows it to focus in on one specific region to find and map the turmor.
“Using ultra-short light pulses gives us the ability to focus in a well confined region and the ability for intense radiation,” says Dr. Christian Parigger, associate professor of physics at the Center for Laser Applications at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. “This allows us to come in and leave a specific area quickly so we can diagnose and attack tumorous cells fast.”
Once the laser targets a precise area, the laser radiation only needs to be turned up to irradiate, or burn off, the tumor, according to the institute’s press release. The technology has the potential to be more precise than current treatment methods. Also, it can be performed as an outpatient procedure, replacing intensive surgery.
“Because the femtosecond laser radiation can be precisely focused both spatially and temporally, one can avoid heating up too many other things that you do not want heated,” Dr. Parigger says. “Using longer laser-light pulses is similar to leaving a light bulb on, which gets warm and can damage healthy tissue.”
The advantage of the technology is that it can help brain-cancer patients because the imaging mechanism can permeate thin layers of bone, such as the skull, non-invasively. Also, it can help a targeted treatment strategy for persistent cancer.
“If you have a cancerous area such as in the brain, the notion is if you see something and take care of it, it won’t spread,” Dr. Parigger says. “This treatment overcomes difficulties in treating brain cancer and tumors. And it has the promise of application to other areas, as well.”
Source: “Space Institute Researchers Develop Laser Technology to Fight Cancer,” Tennessee Today, 7/23/12
Source: “UT Space Institute Researchers Develop Laser Technology,” YouTube
Image by CMRF Crumlin.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.