Lighting up your innards for incision-less surgery

June 27th, 2012 - 5:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 27 (IANS) If only doctors could operate without ever having to cut through your tissues or even diagnosing cancer, simply by seeing tumours inside with a tool as simple as an ultrasound.

The new diagnostics developed by California Institute of Technology (Caltech) engineers enables researchers to focus light efficiently inside biological tissue. While the previous limit for how deep light could be focused was only about one mm, the Caltech team is now able to reach 2.5 mm.

And, in principle, their technique could focus light as much as a few inches into tissue.

The technique is used much like a flashlight shining on the body’s interior, and may eventually provide researchers and doctors with a host of possible biomedical applications, such as a less invasive way of diagnosing and treating diseases, the journal Nature Communications reports.

If you crank up the power of light, you might even be able to do away with a traditional scalpel.

“It enables the possibilities of doing incision-less surgery,” says Changhuei Yang, professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at Caltech and senior study co-author, according to a Caltech statement.

“By generating a tight laser-focus spot deep in tissue, we can potentially use that as a laser scalpel that leaves the skin unharmed,” said Yang. Ying Min Wang, graduate student in electrical engineering, and Benjamin Judkewitz, postdoctoral scholar, are the other co-authors.

To focus light into tissue, the researchers expanded on the recent work of Lihong Wang’s group at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), they had developed a method to focus light using the high-frequency vibrations of ultrasound.

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