New Laser Can Target Single Cells in Surgery
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a "microscalpel" that targets individual cells while preserving other cells around the target area.
This microscalpel would allow surgeons to work on tissue one cell at a time, targeting disease while leaving healthy cells alive. The device combines two technologies - a femtosecond laser and two-photon fluorescence microscopy- into a single miniaturized probe. With the ability to target single cells in three-dimensional space, the probe can penetrate up to 250 micrometers per tissue.
According to mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Adela Ben-Yakar at The University of Texas at Austin, "You can remove a cell with high precision in 3-D without damaging the cells above and below it," she says. "And you can see, with the same precision, what you are doing to guide your microsurgery."
The top photo is of Adela Ben-Yakar, inventor of the "microscalpel", at work in her lab. The middle image is a 'before' picture of a breast cancer cell and the last image is the 'after' picture, where the cell was destroyed by the probe.
From the Utexas website: "Femtosecond lasers produce extremely brief, high-energy light pulses that sear a targeted cell so quickly and accurately the lasers' heat has no time to escape and damage nearby healthy cells. As a result, the medical community envisions the lasers' use for more accurate destruction of many types of unhealthy material. These include small tumors of the vocal cords, cancer cells left behind after the removal of solid tumors, individual cancer cells scattered throughout brain or other tissue and plaque in arteries."
Surgery requiring high precision could benefit from this, such as destroying cancer cells scattered throughout the brain or operating on delicate tissue like vocal cords without damaging them.
For more information, you can read about the research in the June 23 issue of Optics Express.