A revolutionary laser which could fight cancer has been developed by British scientists.
The device, which has been compared to a Star Wars light sabre, could be routinely used on patients in NHS hospitals within the next five years, according to the researchers.
The machine – a couple of millimetres square – fires a laser beam so accurately that it can puncture a hole in an individual cell, allowing drugs to enter and do their work much more effectively.
Drug companies are often confounded by the problem that it can be easy to get a medicine into the body by injection or pill – but much harder to get the drug molecules into the cells themselves.
It could mean, for example, that the cells surrounding the spot where a tumour has been removed by surgery would be holed by the device.
This would allow chemotherapy drugs to enter and kill any remaining cancer cells.
It would be particularly useful for hard-to-reach cancers such as that of the pancreas.
The team from the University of St Andrews has managed to mount the ‘light sabre’ on an optical fibre.
The next step is to develop it for use on endoscopes, the tubes used by surgeons to pass miniature cameras through the body.