WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- A promising treatment studied by a team of researchers at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh can now target and destroy cancer cells without harmful effects on the surrounding normal cells.
- Using a system of lasers, pulses measuring one trillionth of a second can reach the damaged cancer cells alone without the heat spreading to the healthy ones.
- The lasers have so far dissolved colorectal cancer cells during lab tests.
A revolutionary treatment developed by Scottish scientists uses ultra-fine and accurate lasers to dissolve cancer cells without causing harm to nearby healthy cells.
Furthermore, the lasers that fire pulses targeting the cancer cells measure about one trillionth of a second which restricts the heat from reaching the normal neighboring cells, which is a major problem encountered in past studies in the field.
The research, which is covered by a £1.2 million ($1.6 million) funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, is spearheaded by a team of scientists at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
Study leader Professor Jonathan told Sky News that so far, they have successfully destroyed colorectal cancer cells in lab tests.
“We proved in the lab that our laser system can remove cancer cells in a way that restricts damage to the surrounding, healthy cells—within the width of a human hair,” he said.
He further added that they are currently furthering their understanding of how lasers in colorectal cancer surgery work in a clinical application so they can be applied in the brain, head, and neck cancers that would greatly benefit a lot of patients.
The current timeline for further R&D is three years. Presumably, this is before the device can be adapted for clinical tests including studies on an optical fiber-based device that can eliminate cancer cells that are three times smaller than what the laser can remove.
These two light-related therapy projects are not the only ones being undertaken by Heriot-Watt. In fact, the university announced last September that they were also granted £6.1 million ($8.3 million)-worth of funding for research on deep ultraviolet light therapy in the practice of germicide.
While deep ultraviolet light doesn’t exist on Earth, evidence showed that some wavelengths of ultraviolet light can kill germs such as those that have built up antimicrobial-resistance.
However, even brief exposure to it outside the confines of the atmosphere can cause cancer and other diseases, which astronauts and spaceship builders constantly contend with.
Professor Robert Thomson from Heriot-Watt University told the university press that that’s the next thing they will solve.
“We will develop technologies that generate ultraviolet light at just the right wavelength, where the light remains germicidal but without the harmful effects. We’ll also develop technologies to deliver this light precisely, such as optical fibers to transport it into the body without causing further harm,” he said.
Source: Good News Network