Fat-melting laser can zap zits

U. MICHIGAN (US) — A laser designed to melt fat without burning surrounding tissue may be an effective tool for treating acne.

The laser’s 1,708-nanometer, infrared beam takes advantage of a unique wavelength that fat can absorb more efficiently than water, which makes up more than half of the human body.

It can penetrate skin with minimal harm on its way to reach and destroy deeper pockets of fat, says Mohammed Islam, professor of electrical engineering and internal medicine at the University of Michigan.

The laser could be used to treat acne by targeting the oil-producing sebaceous glands, which are known to be involved in the development of the skin disease.

(Credit: Mohammed Islam )


“Typically it’s very hard to penetrate deep enough in the skin because of water absorption, but we picked a wavelength that’s tuned in to fats,” Islam says.

The new laser, described in the journal Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, is the size of a DVD player and can reach glands more than 1.5 millimeters beneath the skin.

“Acne is an extremely common condition without an ideal treatment,” says Jeffrey Orringer, associate professor of dermatology. “This laser system has the potential to alter sebaceous glands in the skin and thereby impact the pathogenesis of acne. We are quite excited about this and several other potential uses for this device.”

To prevent superficial burns, the skin needs to be cooled before being treated. Researchers performed experiments on human samples that had been removed due to their proximity to non-melanoma skin cancers.

University of Michigan researchers are not the first to think of this type of treatment, but are believed to be the first to propose doing it with off-the-shelf telecommunications technology.

“Toward the middle of the last decade, there were experiments like this done using a free electron laser that was pretty much the size of an entire hospital. It was an interesting result, but it wasn’t a practical light source,” Islam says.

“I’m a fiber optics guy. We’re taking what we’ve known for years in that field and building a laser that’s compact and economical and has real potential to make it to the marketplace.”

Islam is the founder, president, and chief technology officer of Omni Sciences, which has licensed the technology from the University of Michigan.

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