Compiled by BioPhotonics staff
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Rather than cutting slivers of skin to send to a lab for testing, a development in smart lasers
could make biopsies painless and noninvasive. Using a laser microscope that deploys
rapid, ultrashort pulses to identify molecules, doctors soon could have a painless
tool to scan a patient’s troublesome mole and review it on the spot.
Scientists at Michigan State University shaped the pulse of the
smart laser to excite one compound or multiple compounds, based on their vibrational
signatures, resulting in significant contrast. Although researchers previously used
fluorescent compounds to achieve the same level of contrast, breakthroughs in stimulated
Raman scattering microscopy have eliminated the need for fluorescent markers. The
label-free molecular imaging technique enables doctors to map a particular chemical
species even in the presence of an interfering one, such as cholesterol in the presence
Using smart laser technology developed at Michigan State University, a patient’s troublesome
mole could be painlessly scanned and reviewed by a doctor right on the spot.
The laser system also could be used to examine how compounds penetrate
skin and hair, and to better identify how drugs penetrate tissue and how drugs and
tissue interact. This could open the door to determining the potential side effects
of drugs, reducing the time it takes to introduce new drugs to the market. Previously
used to detect traces of hazardous materials from a distance, the laser imaging
technology also has promising application potential in the homeland security sector.
The new findings appear in the journal Nature Methods, Jan. 16,
2011 (doi: 10.1038/nphoton.2010.294). Research for the technology was funded in
part by the National Science Foundation.