New Laser Targets Fat

A new laser light could be the next tool to zap fat.

Researchers at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) in Newport News, Va., are the first to show a laser can heat body fat without harming the skin.

The new study measured how different wavelengths of infrared laser light -- 800 nanometers to 2,600 nanometers -- heated human fat from surgically removed tissue and compared the result to a similar test on water. At most infrared wavelengths, water is more efficiently heated by infrared light. Researchers found three wavelengths, 915, 1,210, and 1,720 nanometers, where fat was more efficiently heated than water.

Researchers also mimicked potential surgical conditions using the laser light on pig skin. They found the 1,210 nanometers wavelength heated pig fat up to one centimeter deep without damaging the overlying skin.

The results prove selectively heating tissues with light can be used to treat a variety of health conditions, including severe acne. It could even replace the acne drug Accutane®, which has major side effects.

"The root cause of acne is a lipid-rich gland, the sebaceous gland, which sits a few millimeters below the surface of the skin," says lead author Rox Anderson, a practicing dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"We want to be able to selectively target the sebaceous gland, and this research shows that if we can build lasers at this region of the spectrum, we may be able to do that."

Laser treatments could also be used to treat cellulite and medical conditions like atherosclerosis, which causes heart disease and stroke.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.

SOURCE: American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery 26th Annual Meeting in Boston, April 5-9, 2006