Ultra-fast, ultra-intense laser to change the face of medicine

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Washington, Mar 14 : Researchers at the University of Missouri (MU)-Columbia, have developed a new ultra-fast, ultra-intense laser (UUL), that could change cancer treatments, dentistry procedures, precision metal cutting, and joint implant surgeries.

This UUL, with laser pulse durations of one quadrillionth of a second, also called one femtosecond, was developed by a research team headed by University of Missouri researcher Robert Tzou, the James C. Dowell professor and chairman of the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

"The femtosecond laser has now entered the era of applications. It used to be a novelty, a fantasy. We are currently targeting the areas of life-science and bio-medicine," said Tzou.

The femtosecond laser has the unique capacity to interact with its target without transferring heat to the area surrounding its mark. Thus, the laser's intensity gets the job done while the speed makes sure that heat does not spread.

This property results in clean cuts, strong welds and precision destruction of very small targets, such as cancer cells, with no injury to surrounding materials.

Tzou anticipates that the laser would out do any 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. 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," said Tzou.

This type of laser has many practical applications like the ability to create super-clean channels in a silicon chip. That process can enable the doctors in examining blood one cell at a time as cells flow through the channel.

The laser can also be put to use in surgery so that more precise incisions can be made, 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.

A grant from the National Science Foundation was granted to Associate Professor Yuwen Zhang and Professor Jinn-Kuen Chen, to use the laser to "sinter" metal powders, turn them into a solid, yet porous, mass using heat but without massive liquefaction, a process which can help improve the bond between joint implants and bone.

"With the laser, we can melt a very thin strip around titanium micro- and nanoparticles and ultimately control the porosity of the bridge connecting the bone and the alloy. The procedure allows the particles to bond strongly, conforming to the two different surfaces," said Zhang.

ANI

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