High-speed laser sets sights on cancer

Pew pew! From disc drives to sci-fi shooters, we live in a world full of laser beams. And a special laser made waves in the world of medical research this week. Developed by laser applications researchers from the University of Tennessee’s Space Institute, it could one day find use as a weapon against cancer.

Known as a femtosecond laser, the high-speed light pulses at one-quadrillionth of a second; when fine-tuned, the powerful beam can be used by doctors to detect, map, and nullify cancerous tumors.

Screenshot by Christopher MacManus/CNET)

“Using ultra-short light pulses gives us the ability to focus in a well-confined region, and the ability for intense radiation,” Christian Parigger, associate professor of physics at the University of Tennessee, said in a statement. “This allows us to come in and leave a specific area quickly so we can diagnose and attack tumorous cells fast.”

Parigger co-developed the laser with Jacqueline Johnson, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering, along with Robert Splinter of Splinter Consultants.

After targeting the cancerous region, researchers found that intensifying the laser radiation burned off tumors safely and effectively. The researchers also believe the laser’s ease of… [Read more]

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