A group of UBC researchers have developed a microscope that has the potential to perform precise surgery – without cutting skin.
The device uses an infrared laser beam that can both scan skin and perform surgery by intensifying the heat its beam produces.
Their study, titled "Precise closure of single blood vessels via multiphoton absorption–based photothermolysis" and published in Science Advances on Wednesday, reveals that the device could possibly be used to treat cancer.
Initially, the group was looking to develop a microscope that would work directly on living skin, and rather than require surgeons to cut off a piece to examine.
"With this microscope, we're actually designing it to be used directly on the skin. Instead of examining the skin by using a scalpel, we're actually using an optical biopsy. We're using the light to test the skin," said Dr. Harvey Lui, a UBC professor and co-author of the study.
He noted that cutting a piece of skin can also leave scars for patients, causing more anxiety.
"It seems kind of inefficient to cut a piece of the skin, send it to the lab, wait for two weeks and then get on with the treatment," he told CTV News Vancouver.
"Can we use a light-based technology to get answers faster?"
The multiphoton excitation microscope is able to seal or destroy the blood vessels by increasing the heat of the laser it produces.
While the study noted the device's potential for treating cancer and possibly strokes, the researchers also believe it could have other uses.
Cancer is characterized by the growth of new blood vessels, as are other conditions including macular degeneration.
It'll probably advantageous to treat diseases in the eye," said Haishan Zheng, a professor of dermatology at UBC and another of the authors.
There are also plans to develop a miniature version of the microscope that could be used to perform microscopic examinations and treatments during endoscopy – a procedure used to examine a person's digestive tract.
In the end, the researchers hope the device leads to better care for patients.
"We'll make it more efficient and have more accurate diagnoses in a shorter time. I think that reduces anxiety for patients," said Lui.