Femtosecond Lasers Allow Administration of Drugs to Select Tissues
1 July 2014
Scientists have demonstrated a way to release a neurochemical, otherwise dysfunctional in Parkinson's Disease, using a femtosecond laser. This enables the release of drugs in select tissues and cells using a laser.
The cross-discipline research team consisted of scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University's Femtosecond Spectroscopy Unit and Neurobiology Research Unit, along with collaborators at the University of Otago, New Zealand. What they did, was to combine physics and neurobiology to take on Parkinson's Disease.
The disease is caused by the malfunction of neurochemical dopamine and scientists tried to devise a way to time the chemical's release through outside stimulation. Femtosecond lasers -- devices that release optical pulses with a duration of one millionth of one billionth of a second -- provided that option.
The neurochemical was encapsulated in a liposome tethered to a gold nanoparticle. When it was hit with the laser, the gold absorbed its energy and transferred it to the liposome that, in turn, opened and released the dopamine. Unlike previous similar tests, the femtosecond laser didn't destroy the liposome; a breakthrough that would allow scientists to eventually treat living tissue, even human patients.
Conventional disease treating techniques involve releasing drugs in a systematic way, with the downside that healthy areas are exposed to the drug's effects just as damaged ones are. The laser-release method allows drugs to reach only their intended target.
Members of the research team point to the fact that the breakthrough came from the collaboration between physicists, chemists, and neuroscientists. According to Takashi Nakano of the OIST Neurobiology Research Unit, the cures for many diseases may lie at the boundary between different scientific fields.