Magazine article USA TODAY

Space-Age Probe Treats Brain Cancer

Magazine article USA TODAY

Space-Age Probe Treats Brain Cancer

Article excerpt

For the first time, surgeons have used a special lighting technology, developed for space-based commercial plant growth research on NASA's Space Shuttle. in two successful operations to treat brain cancer on Earth. For the treatment technique called photodynamic therapy, a surgeon uses tiny pinhead size light emitting diodes (LEDs) a source releasing long wavelengths of light--to activate light-sensitive, tumor-treating drugs,

Laser light has been used for this type of surgery in the past, but the LED light illuminates through all near by tissues, reaching parts of the tumor that shorter wavelengths of laser light cannot. The new probe is al so safer because the longer wavelengths are cooler than the shorter ones, making the LED less likely to injure normal brain tissue near the tumor.

The LED light source, consisting of 144 tiny diodes, is compact--the size of a small human finger about one-half inch in diameter--and mechanically more reliable than lasers and other light sources used to treat cancer. The entire light source and cooling system is the size of a briefcase. The LED probe can be used for hours at a time while still remaining cool to the touch and can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a laser. …

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