Super-Precise Laser Scalpel Minimizes Collateral Damage

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Illustration for article titled Super-Precise Laser Scalpel Minimizes Collateral Damage

An ultra-fast tiny laser can work as a miniature scalpel inside the body, making careful incisions or excisions while leaving healthy tissue intact. It is more effective than a doctor's metal scalpel or even other laser devices, according to its developers at the University of Texas, because it leaves more healthy cells alone.

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The device includes a femtosecond laser - that's 200 quadrillionths of a second per pulse - which can accurately target diseased or damaged cells. The endoscope-based device works with two-photon fluorescence microscopy to see individual cells at high resolution, and surgeons can target tissue at the cellular or even nuclear level.

Laser surgery has been around for several years, with clinical applications like the CyberKnife used for precise surgical removal of cancerous tumors. But current laser surgery technology is only so precise, and surrounding healthy tissue suffers, as it does with a typical knife. Tumors in the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and other organs is difficult or impossible with existing laser technology - although there are options for gamma radiation or other treatments. This new prototype could dramatically improve medical lasers' precision.

It can even fit inside traditional endoscopes, which are used to peer inside the body with a camera. The research team, led by Adela Ben-Yakar at UT-Austin, is treating scarred vocal folds with a probe tailored for the larynx, and completing nanosurgery on brain neurons and synapses and cellular organelles, according to a news release.

The researchers will present their work at this year's Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics next month. [Science Daily]


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DISCUSSION

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh!

Cyberknife is a machine which delivers highly focused X-ray beams. The ultimate mechanism of how this works is the X-rays form free radicals via water present in tissue to affect (mostly) DNA damage; there is no heating or burning effect, it's all mostly chemistry. The X-ray beams pass through skin and other organs to target whatever the physician wants to target; because lots of beams from different angles are used, the area where the beams "crossfire" receives 95+% of the energy/damage from the X-ray beams.

"Laser surgery has been around for several years, with clinical applications like the CyberKnife used for precise surgical removal of cancerous tumors."

Cyberknife is not laser surgery in any shape. form, or fashion—mostly because it's not a laser! Cyberknife is not surgery; no surgeons "use" Cyberknife, just radiation oncologists (who collaborate with surgeons, but no surgeons are true authorized users so to speak of the Cyberknife technology.) Also, Cyberknife does not remove tumors. As mentioned above, it irradiates them, and causes them to die by affecting their DNA (also, there is probably some vascular changes in the contained and immediately surrounding non-cancer tissue which helps kill the tumor, too).

#corrections