A new device could soon transform laser skin treatment as we know it.
For more than 40 years, laser-based procedures have been used by dermatologists to effectively remove birthmarks, including port-wine stains, and tattoos. However, this minimally invasive technique has a couple of setbacks — the laser needs to be held at a distance (making it a challenge for the clinician to pinpoint precise locations on the skin), and the laser light poses a risk of eye damage.
But now, researchers from the University of Missouri have developed instruments that transmit laser light into the tissue of the skin through direct contact, which will not only improve the treatment process but will be safer for both professionals and patients.
The system, called sonoillumination, mixes ultrasonic pulsation with a clinical laser and has already been tested on porcine skin tissue samples (since they’re highly similar to human skin). The initial results are “promising for human applications,” according to the press release.
Study authors Nicholas Golda, M.D., an associate professor of dermatology and director of dermatology surgery; Heather K. Hunt, an assistant professor of bioengineering; and Paul J.D. Whiteside, a doctoral candidate, described the new system to Yahoo Beauty. The name “sonoillumination” was chosen to reflect the two elements of the treatment: sound (in the Latin prefix “sono”), which amplifies the laser effects, and illumination.
Along with being a safer treatment, this new procedure is also expected to take even less time compared to the techniques used today. “Our method should allow dermatologists to illuminate larger areas in a shorter time,” the investigators explain. “And our research suggests that the benefits of the ultrasound can be observed immediately, so there is no need for a pre-treatment period with a topical agent that might otherwise lengthen traditional laser procedures without our technology.”
Furthermore, fewer sessions in the doctor’s office may be required with this system, “and this is where real time and cost savings for the patient can be realized with this technology.”
While a clinical trial has yet to be performed, the authors don’t anticipate that adults will experience any new side effects with sonoillumination that do not already occur with existing laser treatments (which can include itching, swelling, acne, and changes in skin color).
“In fact, they may experience fewer side effects, including potentially less painful treatments and less inflammation,” the study authors state. “Additionally, the increased eye safety associated with the waveguide technology that is a component of the sonoillumination project may actually reduce the risks to patients and providers when compared to traditional laser use.”
The team is currently planning a start-up company to commercialize this technique. Now that the effects and benefits of this method have been shown in their lab, the next step involves creating a handheld device, which would then be utilized for a clinical trial.
“Since clinical trials require substantial time and funding, we hope to establish good partnerships with industry to make that a reality,” they say. “Once the trial is done, it will be submitted for FDA approval and hopefully be made widely available to patients shortly thereafter.”
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