'Star Wars'-like light syringe could target cancer

A novel method out of Scotland is capable of firing a laser beam accurate enough to puncture a hole in an individual cell.


OK, the whole Star Wars thing? A little misleading.

Basically, the Herald Sun is reporting on a technology that involves firing a laser beam accurate enough to puncture a hole in an individual cell. Sounds more like The Authority--or any other Mark Millar-written comic--than Star Wars to me.

Anyway, Professor Kishan Dholakia and Dr. Frank Gunn-Moore--both of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland--say the "light saber" could be used routinely on cancer patients within the next five years.

The method would allow chemotherapy drugs to be pumped directly into cancer cells. The researchers believe hard-to-reach cancers such as that of the pancreas would especially benefit.

The researchers have managed to mount the light syringe on an optical fiber the width of a human hair. The next step is to develop it for use on endoscopes, the tubes used by surgeons to pass miniature cameras through the body.

"You could think of these as tiny light sabers like they had in Star Wars inside your body," Gunn-Moore said.

"We can use lasers to punch tiny holes exactly where we want them," he continued. "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."

So not really "Star Warsian," exactly, but mentioning Star Wars has surely led to better coverage of the team's research. But hey, if more coverage leads to more funding, then more power to them.

light syringe
Scientists at the University of St Andrews in Scotland have developed a novel form of syringe, formed solely from light, that they hope will deliver highly targeted chemotherapy drugs. University of St Andrews

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