Smart Lasers Could Make Cancer Biopsies Painless

Marcos Dantus

Researchers at Michigan State University are working to develop laser microscopes that deliver rapid pulses to identify specific molecules. The smart laser technology ultimately could be used for a variety of medical applications and could lead to the development of medical devices that make biopsies noninvasive.

The resolution and speed of the technique could be used to instantaneously and painlessly diagnose skin cancer. At present, doctors using biopsies to diagnose skin cancer must cut away a sliver of skin and send the sample off to a lab. 

“Smart lasers allow us to selectively excite compounds – even ones with small spectroscopic differences,” says Marcos Dantus, a professor at Michigan State University. “We can shape the pulse of the lasers, excite one compound or another based on their vibrational signatures, and this gives us excellent contrast.”

The research also could enable scientists to better understand how drugs and other compounds penetrate tissue. In addition, smart laser technology can be used to optimize drug delivery, thus reducing potential side effects and the time needed to bring new drugs to market.

 A study detailing the laser research can be found on the Michigan State University website.

—Brian Buntz