Researchers at the University of Michigan have successfully developed a medical observation laser that uses human blood.
On the surface, this sounds like an interestingly creepy mash-up between science fiction and gothic vampire fiction… Dig deeper and you’ll see this is an amazing innovation for doctors.
A Blood-powered laser!? How the hell does that work?
Well, let's begin with a little 101.
In recent years, scientists have been turning individual cells into functioning lasers. The way they’ve done this (taking Harvard’s human kidney cell for example) is by injecting them with a fluorescent die – in this situation, it was a green fluorescent protein you typically find in jellyfish.
Once this dye is zapped with a laser, it begins to emit light like a laser beam. The same has happened here with the bloodstream.
A fluorescent dye that’s usually injected for medical imaging – known as indocyanine green (ICG) – this chemical mixes with proteins in the blood plasma to emit light. That is amplified with the use of a laser to turn your blood into a laser beam.
What can this be used for – besides giving me laser blood (which sounds awesome)?
This laser can track finite changes in cells or bodily tissues – a surgeon could spot the very edge of a tumour. That means every last cancerous cell can be removed during surgery, dramatically reducing the chance of the disease coming back.
So, beyond sounding a bit weird at the beginning there – this potential breakthrough could be a cancer-destroyer. Awesome.
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