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Scientists build a laser using human blood

It could help study cell activity or improve the effectiveness of cancer surgery.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 5, 2016
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University of Michigan

No, this isn't one of your childhood sci-fi dreams brought to life -- it's real. University of Michigan researchers have developed a medical observation laser where human blood is a key ingredient. When the team shined a laser into a small cavity full of dye-infused blood, they discovered that they could process the laser's light according to their needs. They could amplify the light to exaggerate small changes in cell activity, or filter it to reduce background noise. Existing techniques combine dyes with infrared or visible light in a way that makes it difficult to spot tiny differences.

This isn't the first time biological lasers have come to fruition. Harvard used proteins and kidney tissue for a laser back in 2011, and Michigan itself has worked with chlorophyll and gelatin. However, this latest breakthrough could be particularly helpful for doctors. It'd do a better job of tracking changes in cells or bodily tissues, for one. Surgeons could also use it to spot the very edge of a tumor, helping them remove every last bit of cancer. All told, the blood laser is far from creepy -- that unusual material choice could save lives.

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