The power of light to improve the quality of life

The power of light to improve the quality of life of people around the world — to heal them — is a key focus of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015).

“Light plays a vital role in our daily lives and is an imperative cross-cutting discipline of science in the 21st century,” according to the mission statement of IYL 2015. “It has revolutionized medicine, opened up international communication via the Internet, and continues to be central to linking cultural, economic and political aspects of the global society.”

Medical laser technology innovations provide new, less-invasive light-based treatments. Credit: R. Sroka, et al.,

Medical laser technology innovations provide new, less-invasive light-based treatments. Credit: R. Sroka, et al.,

The therapeutic use of photons was also a key focus of our latest International Laser Safety Conference. At ILSC 2015 in March, our experts touched not only on harnessing the power of light safely, but also some of the advances we can expect in laser therapies.

What’s on the way goes far beyond current therapeutic procedures like ear, nose and throat surgeries — stapedectomy, mastoidectomy and the removal of acoustic neuroma or nasal and vocal cord polyps — or aesthetic/cosmetic applications like fat reduction, body contouring and hair and tattoo removal.

Updating her ILSC 2013 presentations on the coming advances in semiconductor (diode) lasers, Leslie Pollard, president of laser consultancy Southwest Innovative Solutions, noted that big progress is coming “and we need to be prepared. I don’t think the docs are prepared. (I’m) not even sure the manufacturers are prepared unless they have really astute engineers.” With these new devices in “little 10-pound boxes or 20-pound boxes … nanotechnology and medicine is about to be turned on its ear. I think a lot of people thought I was talking science fiction two years ago, but it’s really happening — and it’s happening faster than I even thought it would.”

One concept on the horizon that Pollard revisited is laser tweezers. “I just read an article on laser tweezers to pull out strands of DNA and reinsert different strands of DNA fixing problems before they become problems,” she noted.

Following Pollard’s presentations, Anh Hoang painted a picture of a future in which diode lasers become so small they can be put in a capsule and travel through the body. The versatility of these devices might provide the ability to “search and destroy tissue at the same time,” he said.

“The Egyptians were the first people that we know of to realize the therapeutic power of natural sunlight and to start using it for medicinal purposes,” noted June Curley in her summary of ENT laser surgery procedures. What’s next, Pollard suggested? Envision the possibility of putting semiconductor lasers on the fingertips of rubber surgical gloves. “Guys, this is far beyond Star Trek,” she concluded, “but it’s in our lifetime.”

LIA-webThe Laser Institute of America is the professional society for laser applications and safety, serving the industrial, educational, medical, research and government communities throughout the world since 1968. Visit us at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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