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A Snip in Time May Save Lives: Laser-Cut Nerves Regenerate

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2005
Scientists at Stanford University in California, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the University of Texas at Austin have demonstrated a femtosecond laser technique with potential in nerve regeneration research.

In a study published in the Dec. 16 issue of Nature, the researchers snipped motor control nerves in roundworms via laser nanosurgery. They found that some nerves regenerated, enabling the worms to move normally again. They used a tunable Coherent Ti:sapphire laser to produce 200-fs, 10-nJ pulses of 780-nm radiation, which they focused to cut 0.3-µm-diameter axons with minimal damage to the surrounding tissue.

The researchers said that the technique could approach a resolution of 80 to 100 nm, enabling its use on subcellular structures such as vesicles, mitochondria and nuclei. Such work could benefit people with nerve damage.

"Our ultimate goal is to discover the rules to prevent damaged axons from decaying or degenerating and to promote them to regrow," said Yishi Jin of the University of California's Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


GLOSSARY
femtosecond laser
A type of ultrafast laser that creates a minimal amount of heat-affected zones by having a pulse duration below the picosecond level, making the technology ideal for micromachining, medical device fabrication, scientific research, eye surgery and bioimaging.
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