Health and Healthcare Systems

This new laser can track down and kill cancer cells

Scientist Paul Clarke looks at a picture of labelled cells on a monitor at the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, July 15, 2013. Picture taken July 15, 2013. To match Insight CANCER-DRUGS/       REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN - Tags: HEALTH SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) - GM1E99Q134S01

This treatment would ensure that cancer cells are destroyed before they spread through the body. Image: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Victor Tangermann
Writer and Photo Editor, Futurism
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Healthcare Delivery

Cancer zapper

A team of scientists from the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences have successfully tested a laser that can track down cancer cells and kill them — all from outside the skin.

While being completely non-invasive, “this technology has the potential to significantly inhibit metastasis progression,” Vladimir Zharov, author of the paper that was published today in Science Translational Medicine, tells IEEE Spectrum. The idea is to kill of cancer cells before they are able to metastasize, or spread, through the body — the primary cause of cancer-related deaths.

Popping

By shining a laser at these circulating tumor cells, they end up absorbing far more heat energy than regular cells. The heat causes them to expand and collapse.

“The use of lasers has revolutionized disease diagnosis and treatment. However, the large size of lasers has prevented their use in many medical applications at the cellular level,” said Zharo in a 2017 statement.

And the results are promising: “In one patient, we destroyed 96 percent of the tumor cells,” said Zharov. And that’s before they cranked the laser to max power.

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Blood pact

It’s not the first device of its kind, but Zharov claims it’s the first to be demonstrated in humans. Dozens of devices have tried something similar, including a wrist-worn deviceput together by University of Michigan researchers.

But the new device has another big advantage: it can scan a liter of blood in an hour — far quicker than competing devices.

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Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsFourth Industrial Revolution
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