Zapping Individual Cancer Cells

A problem that remains to be solved before the device can be used on patients is shrinking the width of the probe from 15 to 5 millimeters--the size of the standard tools used in endoscopic surgery--so that it will be compatible with existing surgical technology. "If you want to be compatible with the existing systems, you have to reduce the size," Ben-Yakar says. "But when you make it smaller, the probe, the optics will be more difficult. It will be hard to keep the current resolution. That's the next step."

Rox Anderson, a professor of dermatology and the director of the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, calls the development of the microprobe "an important step . . . toward the broad opportunity of integrating diagnostic and therapeutic options in biomedicine."

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