Ultra fast laser to revolutionise surgery

March 14th, 2008 - 3:29 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 14 (IANS) Many equate lasers with sci-fi battles in galaxies far, far away - or, nearer home, with grocery store scanners and CD players. However, an ultra-fast, ultra-intense laser, or UUL, with pulse durations of one quadrillionth of a second, or one femtosecond, could change cancer treatment, dentistry procedures, precision metal cutting, and joint implant surgeries. “The femtosecond laser has now entered the era of applications. It used to be a novelty, a fantasy,” said University of Missouri (UM) researcher Robert Tzou. “We are currently targeting the areas of life-science and bio-medicine.”

What makes the femtosecond laser different from other lasers is its capacity to interact with its target without transferring heat to the area surrounding its mark.

The intensity of the power gets the job done while the speed ensures heat does not spread. Results are clean cuts, strong welds and precision destruction of very small targets, such as cancer cells, with no injury to surrounding materials. Tzou hopes that the laser would essentially eliminate the need for harmful chemical therapy used in cancer treatments.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Practical applications of UUL also include the ability to create super-clean channels in a silicon chip. That process can allow doctors to analyse blood one cell at a time as cells flow through the channel.

The laser can be used in surgery to make more precise incisions that heal faster and cause less collateral tissue damage. In dentistry, the laser can treat tooth decay without harming the rest of the tooth structure. Most research with femtosecond lasers has focussed on engineering materials such as metals and semiconductors.

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