Brussels, 31 Jul 2003
Israeli scientists have succeeded in using a beam of sunlight to remove a lesion from a liver during surgery.
So far the technology has been limited to use on animals. The team from Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba write in the journal 'Nature' that they have used this solar surgery to remove tumour sized legions from the livers of two anaesthetised rats. This was preceded by trials on chicken breasts and livers.
Sunlight is a cost efficient alternative to laser technology, now used in all operating theatres. The beams have to be generated by expensive equipment, and may also damage the eyes of those that use them.
The Israeli researchers - engineers, solar physicists and clinicians - carried out their research in the Negev desert region. The 'solar scalpel' is created by a fibreoptic concentrator that collects and focuses sunlight and channels it into the operating theatre.
The rats regained consciousness and normal functions following the operation. They were then however killed so that scientists could open up the rats and confirm that the operations had been successful.
The technology may not be practical in Europe, as one cloud would cut the power supply. However, it has huge potential for developing countries, many of which have the necessary climate, and struggle to pay for expensive laser treatment.
Further information is available for subscribers to Nature at the following web address: http://www.nature.com