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Free-electron laser targets fat

Boston, Mass. - Fat may have finally met its match: laser light. Researchers at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) have shown, for the first time, that a laser can preferentially heat lipid-rich tissues, or fat, in the body without harming the overlying skin. Laser therapies based on the new research could treat a variety of health conditions, including severe acne, atherosclerotic plaque, and unwanted cellulite. The result will be presented at the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS) 26th Annual Meeting in Boston, Mass.

In the first part of the study, the researchers used human fat obtained from surgically discarded normal tissue. Based on a fat absorption spectrum, tissue was exposed to a range of wavelengths of infrared laser light (800-2600 nanometers) using the Free-Electron Laser facility at Jefferson Lab. The researchers measured how selected wavelengths heated the fat and compared the result to a similar experiment conducted with pure water. At most infrared wavelengths, water is more efficiently heated by infrared light; however, the researchers found three wavelengths 915, 1210 and 1720 nm where fat was more efficiently heated than water.

The researchers then exposed fresh, intact pig skin-and-fat tissue samples, about two inches thick, to free-electron laser infrared light centered around the two most promising wavelengths, 1210 and 1720 nm. To imitate potential surgical conditions, the pig skin was placed next to a cold window, which mimicked the application of a cold compress to the skin prior to laser exposure. The researchers zapped samples with beams of infrared laser light ranging from eight to 17 mm wide for about 16 seconds. They found that the 1210 nm wavelength preferentially heated pig fat up to 1 cm deep, without damaging the overlying skin. At 1210 nm, l
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9-Apr-2006


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