The use of medical lasers is not a new technique employed in hospitals, but there are new applications being developed with regularity that assist with drug delivery, gene therapy, nerve repair, dentistry and oncology. In 1967 a researcher in Budapest, Hungary recognized that a ruby laser could stimulate faster hair growth in mice. Since that time, lasers have taken on a larger role in many areas of medical care and technology.
Today’s lasers are used to diagnose and treat myriad conditions. Lasers are used in surgical settings, aesthetic treatments, ophthalmology and biomedical applications including use in veterinary clinics. The use of cosmetic laser treatments has boomed to a more than $700 million industry because laser treatments offer patients faster, less painful treatments with shorter recovery times.
Lasers are more precise than surgical scalpels and lead to less damage to surrounding tissues. Additionally, many laser therapies cauterize as they work and this leads to a patient suffering less blood loss. Surgeons and veterinarians who use medical lasers undergo special training in order to offer laser based treatments.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington used low power near infrared lasers and crystalline magnetic carbon nanoparticles to perform photothermal delivery of dyes and plasmids as a way to replicate DNA into a live human prostate cancer. The non-invasive treatment directs a laser at the cancer cells, with the heat causing the crystalline magnetic carbon nanoparticles to expand, increase blood flow to other areas and deliver a cancer-killing agent. The technique kills the cancer without injuring adjacent healthy cells.
Laser therapy can be used to stimulate cellular function in tissues, to shrink and destroy tumors and precancerous growths. Lasers offer a way to access tumors in areas in which a conventional surgical technique wouldn’t be viable.
Carbon dioxide and argon lasers are most commonly used in medical settings and they are ideal for removing superficial cancers on the skin. Nd:YAG lasers are used most often with endoscopy procedures to reach internal organs.
Laser procedures are FDA approved, but researchers continue to perform clinical trials to gather information on long term side effects and overall effectiveness.
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