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“Nano-scissors?laser shows precise surgical capability

Precision surgery on microscaled worms (C. Elegans) is quite a challenge; its about 1 mm in length. A research team from the University of Texas at Austin developed a method of laser-assisted surgery to work on these little beasts, being able to section a single axon (the "arms" of a neuron) with great precision : An ultra-short pulse laser that can perform extremely precise surgery on tiny roundworms may be the key to understanding nerve regeneration and is an important step toward treatment of human neurological disease, according to research published in the Dec. 16 issue of Nature.

Dr. Adela Ben-Yakar, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, led the development of the technique. It acts like a pair of tiny “nano-scissors,?able to cut, for example, nano-sized units like nerve axons, the parts of nerve cells that carry nerve impulses away from the cells to muscles or to other cells. “This tool opens up a new frontier for biologists studying nerve regeneration,?says Ben-Yakar. “We can also apply it to many other studies that require nanosurgery, so it’s a very versatile tool.?The beauty of this laser, she says, is its ability to cut organelles (parts of cells—they are what organs are to organisms) precisely, without damaging surrounding tissue. Usually, conventional lasers used in surgery heat the area to be cut, then cut it, but this heightens the risk for tissue damage. Ben-Yakar’s nanosurgery technique used a series of low-energy “femtosecond?laser pulses to partially sever the axons of several anesthetized C. elegans, a widely studied type of roundworm about one millimeter long. A femtosecond is one millionth of a billionth of a second. “The time is very important here,?she says. “Because it happens so fast, there isn’t enough time for heat to diffuse out, so we don’t damage anything. The pulse’s very s
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Source:University of Texas at Austin


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