NOV 30, 2020 9:30 AM PST

Developing Handheld Pulse Lasers to Destroy Cancer Tissue

WRITTEN BY: Jasper Cantrell

Many take modern surgeons and surgical methods for granted. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t too long ago that we were using leeches for basic infections, and a bad scratch meant you might not see the next summer.

Surgery with respect to cancer is the go-to treatment for any cancer that has a surgery-accessible tumor. Resection of a tumor can rid the body of the source of cancer cells before they begin to metastasize. Modern surgeons’ skills are in a whole other league compared to those leech using hacks, and when you add in modern technology, it is like comparing an apple to the moon.

One of the most helpful technologies that surgeons can use are tools that can cut and cauterize simultaneously. Many of these are electrocauterization tools used in surgeries of all types to help decrease blood loss and clean surgical areas during surgery. These tools can sometimes cause minor damage to the surrounding cuts, although small is still something researchers intend to improve upon.

In a new study, a team from Heriot-Watt University in the United Kingdom developed a tool that could do just that. Their tool would utilize picosecond pulse lasers as a sort of scalpel surgeons could blast away cancerous tissue. This scalpel wouldn’t generate heat, as the laser would only be active for less than a moment and would essentially destroy cancer tissue to eliminate any chance of it escaping into the body.

Much of the study centered around identifying which settings would allow for the safest and most effective for blasting away cancer. This involved testing the laser’s power level, the time between pulses, and the pattern of pulses. The laser’s power level could determine the depth of the blast, while the time between successive blasts is what could cause or prevent off-target damage. The method they ended up with could successfully destroy cancer tissue in ex vivo samples with little to no harm done to the surrounding tissue.

This study utilized picosecond pulse lasers to destroy cancer tissue in ex vivo samples in a controlled and safe manner. This method ensures that there is little chance of cancer cells escaping the surgical site and metastasizing throughout the body.   

The study concludes, “Our findings suggest that picosecond pulsed laser ablation potentially has a role in the treatment of colonic neoplasms and therefore opens up a novel route to overcome existing limitations of surgical procedures when using electrocautery tools.”

Sources: Nature Scientific Reports, Matheson Harris

About the Author
  • Hey everyone! My name is Jasper and, considering I am pretty new here to Labroots, I figured I would introduce myself. I received my bachelor’s from the University of California at Riverside back in 2016. I started off my career a few years ago with a job at a University over in New York, before moving over into the industry. I'm happy to be writing content for Labroots, and I hope you enjoy it!
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