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Ultra powerful mini Star Wars-esque "lightsaber" a natural fit to fight evil -- evil cancer cells

You could say the force is strong in physics professor Kishan Dholakia and Dr Frank Gunn-Moore of the University of St Andrews in Scotland.  With a deluge of nanotech cancer treatments being developed, the pair have developed a superior way perhaps to fight cancer -- with "lightsabers".

The miniature device, just a few millimeters long extends a "lightsaber" laser beam.  The beam is so accurate it can target a single cell.  The device would be perfect for hard to reach cancers that typically have high fatality rates, such as cancer of the pancreas.  The little lightsaber can punch holes in cells surrounding the spot of a remove tumor, allowing chemo drugs to be selectively delivered to only the cells at risk. 

The team currently has the light saber mounted on an optical fiber.  The team is now working on adapting it to endoscopes, tiny cameras used by doctors during routine medical procedures.  Putting the saber on the end of the camera, researchers could sneak a peak of the region and then go to work punching holes in cells as needed.

Dr. Gun-Moore, obviously a fan of the science-fiction movie franchise Star Wars, enthused about the new real-life research breakthrough, "You could think of these as tiny light sabers like they had in Star Wars inside your body.  We can use lasers to punch tiny holes exactly where we want them. We can produce a rod of light - sometimes described as a sword - that can even go around objects. It really does sound like science fiction."

The device could solve a persistent problem in the field of medicine.  The most desirable drug would seem to be the one that is most effective at killing cancer cells.  However, many of the best drugs have poor solubility, making their delivery difficult to near impossible.

The new device creates an alternative -- low solubility drugs can be optimally delivered through a process called "photoporation".  By using the new "lightsaber" to punch multiple pores in a cell membrane, large insoluble drug molecules can pass through the membrane.  Further, the method could also be used to deliver genes to cells and extend the applications of gene therapy, useful in treating diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

The device could also be used in the lab to make drug testing easier.  By punching holes in cells, drugs could be delivered to them and evaluated solely on their effectiveness, removing solubility from the mix.  The process could also help to speed up the testing.

The pair looks to bring their device to hospitals across the country in as little as five years.  Dr Gunn-Moore says one of the first potential applications is in treatment of Alzheimer's disease.   

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RE: Its called a laser.
By MrPoletski on 11/24/2008 3:31:38 PM , Rating: 3
Lasers only go forever (like light) in space until they hit something. All a laser is is focused light. All lasers start in a tube and a very controlled environment where light reflects around with a path length such that as the light reflects it goes over itself and amplifies itself. What they have done with this technology is exposed it to the outside environment. Lasers which are used for pointing devices only allow very little of the total light to escape the tube. Here the tube is open and no light is escaping from outside the two mirrors on the ends.

Lasers have an ignition source, such as a xenon flash bulb which starts up light in a standing wave inside the laser cavity, passing back and forth through the lasing medium. As the photons travel through the medium (such as helium-neon gas) one of the interactions that possible is that the photon will cause an excited electron in a higher energy level to decay down to a lower level, releasing a photon. This photon will be of the exact same frequency direction and phase of the original one. The lasing medium will then soon electrically energise that electron back into the higher state again. (i.e. draw power). So the lasing medium has an associated 'gain'.

A perfect laser outputs monochromatic (one frequency) light with infinite coherence length, but in practice you get frequency harmonics appear and a coherence length (distance along beam before a random change of phase) of a few centimeters to a meter.

It is likely that they are using a microscopic focusing technique to bring the laser down to the tiniest spot - and decide at what distance from the end of the fibre that spot is at. This would mean that not everything in the path of that laser will be burned, just at the focal point of the lens.
Light sabers as seen in star wars are fiction. We don't have a means to make light bend in the way portrayed in the movies.

we gotta figure out how to make light solid first!

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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