Femtosecond Laser Ideal for Killing Cancer, Installing Adamantium Skeletons

Illustration for article titled Femtosecond Laser Ideal for Killing Cancer, Installing Adamantium Skeletons

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Did you know that the same ultra-fast, ultra-intense laser (UUL) that can blast individual cancer cells without harming any good cells in the vicinity can also be used to fuse metal to bone? A new laser lab at the University of Missouri has been built to test the awesome power of this system, whose pulses last just one quadrillionth of a second, known in street terminology as a "femtosecond." Here's why the American Dental Association, the American Cancer Society and the Pentagon would be equally interested in this developing technology:

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
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The key characteristic of the femtosecond laser is the fact that it uniquely can hit its target without burning anything in the surrounding areas. According to Robert Tzou, head researcher and chairman of the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, this could mean the end of nasty chemotherapy:

"If we have a way to use the lasers to kill cancer cells without even touching the surrounding healthy cells, that is a tremendous benefit to the patient. Basically, the patient leaves the clinic immediately after treatment with no side effects or damage. The high precision and high efficiency of the UUL allows for immediate results."

In surgery and in dentistry, the super accuracy of the laser can be utilized to reduce the collateral damage currently made by incisions and cavity drilling.

Illustration for article titled Femtosecond Laser Ideal for Killing Cancer, Installing Adamantium Skeletons
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X-Men fans will be happy to hear that the laser can also be used to fuse metal dust to bone, "sintering" metal powder locally with just enough heat, but without the need for molten metal. Says researcher Yuwen Zhang:

"With the laser, we can melt a very thin strip around titanium micro- and nanoparticles and ultimately control the porosity of the bridge connecting the bone and the alloy. The procedure allows the particles to bond strongly, conforming to the two different surfaces."

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In case you doubt that metallicized bones might have military application, Zhang and some of his colleagues have just received a DoD grant to poke around in precisely that arena. [University of Missouri]

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DISCUSSION

@starbuck1011: Respectfully disagree.

If you accept the sentence as written, the "key" feature of the laser is that it is the only laser that does not burn surrounding tissue: "the key feature is that it uniquely can . . .." However, in this context, clearly the "key" is not its uniqueness, but rather what it does. The sentence, as drafted, does not appear to state what it means.

If what it means is that the key feature is that it doesn't burn surrounding tissue as opposed to the other feature of turning you into Wolverine, than clearly the "uniqueness" of the laser is irrelevant to the stated comparison, is not a key feature, and does not belong in the sentence.

If the idea of the sentence is to express two disparate concepts of 1) it is unique, and 2) it has a key feature of non-burning compared to the non-key but totally cool Wolverining feature, then the sentence should either be broken into two sentences or redrafted.

In either event, kudos to Wilson for bringing it to us.