A laser that could find and zap tumors
August 2, 2012
Researchers at the Center for Laser Applications at the University of Tennessee Space Institute have invented a system that uses lasers to find, map, and non-invasively destruct cancerous tumors.
The technology uses a femtosecond laser (creating pulses lasting one-quadrillionth of a second). The high speed enables the laser to quickly focus in on a specific region without overheating.
“Using ultra-short light pulses gives us the ability to focus in a well confined region and the ability for intense radiation,” said co-inventor Christian Parigger, associate professor of physics. “This allows us to come in and leave a specific area quickly so we can diagnose and attack tumorous cells fast.”
Once the cancerous area is precisely targeted, the intensity of the laser radiation would be turned up to irradiate, or burn off, the tumor. This method has the potential to be more exact than current methods and to be done 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,” said Parigger. “Using longer laser-light pulses is similar to leaving a light bulb on, which gets warm and can damage healthy tissue.”
The imaging mechanism can non-invasively permeate thin layers of bone, such as the skull, and can help define a targeted treatment strategy for persistent cancer. The method also overcomes limitations posed by current treatments in which radiation may damage portions of healthy brain tissue, Parigger said.
The he Center for Laser Applications has yet not announced plans for medical studies.