Cardiovascular disease, comprising coronary heart, cerebrovascular, peripheral arterial, rheumatic heart and congenital heart diseases as well as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, is the No. 1 cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organization. That should suggest broad opportunity for treatment solutions, even though wide success has eluded photonics manufacturers for a number of reasons. Now, however, new developments may take research and applications in a new direction. We featured laser treatments for heart disease in the July/August 2000 issue of BioPhotonics, in an article by contributing editor Richard Gaughan titled “Lasers make a Comeback in Treating Heart Disease.” In it, the author said, “The period from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s was a time of great promise for laser treatment of coronary artery disease, but that early potential gave way to recognition of several problems, among them postsurgical complications, difficult protocols and expensive equipment. Today (2000), however, the picture is brightening with renewed interest in laser treatment of heart disease for specific classes of patients.” Writing about laser TMR (transmyocardial revascularization), used to restore blood flow to the heart, Gaughan said that the primary beneficiaries of this technology are people who have no alternative for dealing with crippling angina, and that a second class of patients might also benefit from TMR, as an adjunct to bypass. The message at the time was that lasers used in treating heart disease were not going away. Fast-forward to 2012, and science writer Kim Krieger brings us up to date on this subject, saying that, although TMR fell somewhat out of favor in the 1990s, recent developments have inspired new research into the technique. While TMR has remained a niche procedure for 20 years, practiced only on patients with no other options, recent advances in stem cell research have inspired a new dimension to TMR therapy. Following up on promising research done in Europe, planned studies in the US will combine TMR with stem cells to spur new blood vessel growth, Krieger said. Read our cover story, “Laser Method Could Help Where Bypasses Can’t,” beginning on page 18. If that gets your heart racing, read on. News editor Gary Boas’ feature, “Probes Watch Your Heart Skip a Beat,” explains how fluorescence enables optical mapping of cardiac arrhythmias. In the article, beginning on page 22, Boas writes, “While many cases of cardiac arrhythmia are harmless, others can lead to loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness, which can be dangerous and even fatal.” Optical mapping with fluorescent probes allows study of the electrical activity of the heart with much higher spatial resolution than is possible with conventional electrode mapping and contributes to better understanding of the coupling between excitation and contraction in the heart. Dissecting spectroscopy’s future Spectroscopy allows us to analyze the world around us on an ever-smaller scale and with ever-better resolution. BioPhotonics Managing Editor Laura Marshall recently spoke with a few leaders in the industry – Eric Bergles, vice president of sales and marketing at BaySpec Inc. in San Jose, Calif.; Robert Chimenti, marketing manager at B&W Tek in Newark, Del.; Dr. Charles Keith Manka, a consultant for Research Support Instruments in Lanham, Md.; and Uwe Ortmann, head of sales and marketing at PicoQuant GmbH in Berlin – to get a taste of what the market is like now and where it will go in the near future. All four companies offer lasers for biological spectroscopy. When asked where they think the market is headed, their answers ranged from “slowing down” to “steady and organic.” Bergles said that, “Although there is a clear trend toward miniaturization, there are always trade-offs to consider. In the end, we see clear requirements for multiwavelength Raman microscope systems, high-resolution in-line systems performing real-time analysis in process control environments, portables for mobile labs as well as continued use of easy-to-operate handhelds. Each will have its own niche.” Read the entire interview, “Opportunities Abound in Biological Spectroscopy,” beginning on page 29, and find out which application areas the respondents believe are thriving and why. Enjoy the issue.