Bioengineering, Medicine team up on laser dermatology breakthrough

Have a particularly problematic tattoo you want to get rid of? Looking to get rid of troublesome body hair? Removing both requires getting laser light deep into the skin, past the protective layer of melanin.

Currently, the process requires high powered lasers to get through the top, protective layer of skin deeper into the tissue, and relies on free-space propagation of the laser beam (i.e., through the air), which can be dangerous both to the clinician and the patient. Stray laser beams can cause permanent eye damage at the power needed to affect tattoo removal.  But new technology developed by University of Missouri College of Engineering researchers in collaboration with the MU School of Medicine is primed to make the process safer and more effective.

Mizzou Engineering doctoral candidate Paul J.D. Whiteside and Assistant Professor of Bioengineerng Heather K. Hunt are using a technique, invented in the Hunt Lab, called sonoillumination to allow the laser to penetrate deeper into the skin with greater efficiency. Moreover, instead of free-space propagation, the laser transmits directly into the skin only on contact. This means lower-powered lasers can achieve the same results, providing greater health and safety benefits both for the patient and the dermatologist performing the procedure.

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