Laser-ing in on brain surgery

July 3, 2012, CORDIS
Laser-ing in on brain surgery

Medical operations have become almost commonplace, but the delicacy of medical procedures involving the brain and the spinal cord force physicians and patients to consider other alternatives. European researchers, however, could change this following their development of a laser for minimally invasive brain surgery. The achievement is a result of an interdisciplinary EU project that involved partners from seven European countries, creating a table-top solid-state laser system that can cut brain tissue with unprecedented precision.

The inspiration for the project began back in 1999 when scientists from Vanderbilt University in the United States removed a from a patient with a free-electron laser at a of 6.45 microns. The wavelength is important to note, as this wavelength in the mid-infrared spectral region had been recognised in a number of early experiments with different as being the most suitable one for such surgical operations. Despite this acknowledgement, this technological know-how has not transferred itself into operating rooms as the equipment needed could not fit; free-electron lasers, for example, are huge and accelerator-based facilities are both expensive and generally not suitable for routine use in clinical conditions.

In 2008, the MIRSURG project was launched with the objective to develop a laser source that would emit a wavelength near 6.45 micrometres (µm) and provide high single pulse energy and average power which would enable minimally invasive neurosurgery. The project partners believed such an achievement would close the gap for diode-pumped solid-state lasers in the mid-infrared spectral range around 6.45 microns.

'There were so far no compact and reliable solid-state lasers emitting at the desired mid-infrared wavelength,' said Dr Valentin Petrov from the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy (MBI), which headed the project.

The MIRSURG team presented a fairly compact all-solid-state prototype that fits on a table-top at a recent meeting in Saint-Louis, France. The desired optical wavelength of 6.45 microns is generated by frequency conversion. A laser beam with a wavelength near 2.0 microns is converted to the mid-infrared by the use of nonlinear optical crystals.

The new laser emits short pulses exactly at 6.45 microns with a repetition rate of 100-200 hertz (Hz) which ensures the targeted average power of over 1.0 watt. The greatly reduced collateral damage at this wavelength is due to the combined absorption of water and resonant laser heating of non-aqueous components (proteins). The penetration depth at this wavelength is on the order of several microns, which is comparable to the cell size, and is therefore close to the optimum value, not achievable by any other state-of-the-art lasers.

The MIRSURG partners plan to further optimise the new table-top laser, assess its tissue ablation capabilities and, possibly within a follow-up project, demonstrate real solid-state laser surgery at 6.45 microns. 'I hope that in the near future such a could become a practical surgical tool in every specialised operating room,' said Dr Petrov.

Explore further: A silicon chip with integrated laser and optical grating offers new possibilities for telecommunications

More information: MIRSURG project: www.mirsurg.eu

Related Stories

A silicon chip with integrated laser and optical grating offers new possibilities for telecommunications

August 9, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- Silicon is an ideal platform for integrated photonic circuits because the material is cheap and readily available. Silicon chips with an integrated laser source capable of emitting light at a specific wavelength ...

Recommended for you

Enzyme identified as possible novel drug target for sickle cell disease, Thalassemia

July 19, 2018
Medical researchers have identified a key signaling protein that regulates hemoglobin production in red blood cells, offering a possible target for a future innovative drug to treat sickle cell disease (SCD). Experiments ...

Mice given metabolite succinate found to lose weight by turning up the heat

July 19, 2018
A team of researchers with members from institutions across the U.S. and Canada has found that giving the metabolite succinate to mice fed a high-fat diet prevented obesity. In their paper published in the journal Nature, ...

Supplement may ease the pain of sickle cell disease

July 19, 2018
(HealthDay)—An FDA-approved supplement reduces episodes of severe pain in people with sickle cell disease, a new clinical trial shows.

Scientists uncover DNA 'shield' with crucial roles in normal cell division

July 18, 2018
Scientists have made a major discovery about how cells repair broken strands of DNA that could have huge implications for the treatment of cancer.

Researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

July 18, 2018
Scientists from the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute have developed a new bone engineering technique called Segmental Additive Tissue Engineering (SATE). The technique, described in a paper published ...

Researchers report protein kinase as the switch controlling obesity and diabetes

July 18, 2018
One of the research lines targeting the worldwide obesity epidemic is the manipulation of brown adipose tissue, a 'good' type of fat that burns lipids to maintain an appropriate body temperature. Researchers at the Centro ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.