Skip to main content

Big dreams and nanomedicine: optical nanotransformers

Guest blogger: Elizabeth Bernhardt, a physics research assistant in nonlinear optics at Washington State University, is  blogging on presentations at SPIE Optics + Photonics in San Diego, California, 28 August through 1 September.

Dream big dreams, create amazing solutions:
Paras Prasad offered inspiration in a talk on
how nanomedicine can save lives
Treating diseases in the human body can be incredibly difficult and certain cancers may even be inoperable.

In the opening all-symposium plenary at SPIE Optics + Photonics 2016, Paras Prasad, Executive Director of the Institute for Lasers, Photonics, and Biophotonics at the University at Buffalo, New York, told how he aims to bring treatment directly to the source of the disease, using light.

Inspired early on by James Cameron's move Fantastic Voyage (1966), Dr. Prasad imagined sending something tiny into the human blood stream to specifically target disease. He turned science fiction into reality via nanomedicine.

Nanomedicine uses incredibly small devices, such as multilayered nanotransducers, to treat human diseases from inside the body. The first layer absorbs a particular wavelength of light. The next layer takes this absorbed energy and converts it to a higher or lower wavelength, which is then re-radiated.

The overarching idea is to take low-energy light, such as infrared, send it to a particular location in the body, then change the light to a different, more useful energy. IR light easily passes through the human body with very little damage. Nanotransducers absorb this light, turning it into useful, high-energy visible light, which is easily and readily absorbed by nearby cells. The cells are then destroyed, for an effective and potentially less dangerous way of treating cancer.

Dr. Prasad described another dream becoming reality, via the work of Nobel Laureate Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who developed the theory of two-photon absorption.

At the time, it was assumed experimental verification would never be possible. However, with development of the laser, two-photon absorption occurs every time one uses a green laser pointer.

Moreover, two-photon absorption can be used for dental bonding, killing bacteria, two-photon microscopy, and more. Indeed, Dr. Prasad showed materials applicable to night vision, security, and friend-foe identification. These materials appear to be different colors based on the light they absorb.

He challenged the audience to turn their own imaginings into reality as well. Perhaps the next project in optogenetics (using light to effect genes) will cure or help people with neurological disorders, or even enhance capabilities ... maybe one day neurophotonics will help Superman jump from the pages of a comic book into real-life super-human capabilities.

Note: On Wednesday 31 August, Dr. Prasad will receive the SPIE Gold Medal, the highest award of the Society, in recognition of his work.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Hyperspectral imaging: defense technology transfers into commercial applications

Hyperspectral imaging, like many other of today's technologies, is moving into numerous commercial markets after developing and maturing in the defense sector. While still having a strong presence in defense applications, the technology is now used in chemical detection, food quality assurance and inspection, vegetation monitoring, and plant phenotyping, among others.
For more than 20 years, advances in spectral imaging have been on display at SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing (DCS). The applications and capabilities of the technology have grown along with the conferences and exhibition at SPIE DCS.
The ability to see more than what is visible to the human eye has always been one of the goals of optical engineers. With hyperspectral imaging they have been able to achieve just that. By accessing the entire electromagnetic spectrum, the sensors are able to image a specific wavelength range, or spectral band, and combine images of multiple bands into one 3D scene.
Through analysis,…

Changing life as we know it: the Internet of Things and cyber-physical sensing

More than 20 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices are expected to be deployed within the next few years; by 2025, this number may reach as much as 1 trillion connected devices. Driven by growth in cloud computing, mobile communications, networks of data-gathering actuators and sensors, and artificial intelligence with machine learning, this trend will change how we live our lives.
Already we live among connected devices in our homes.

Increasingly, we will also wear them, drive them, and monitor our health via the IoT. More businesses will build, ship, and design products and manage inventory with connected devices. In our cities, transportation, communications, and security infrastructure, and services such as water distribution and energy management will employ IoT applications. Farmers will find many uses, from insuring the health of livestock to increasing crop productivity.
Several conferences scheduled for SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing 2018 (15 through 19 April in Orland…

Glass ceiling, sticky floor: countering unconscious bias in photonics

Who knew … until last year: Three African-American women working — in obscurity — for NASA as mathematicians played a vital role in the mission that sent astronaut John Glenn into orbit around Earth and brought him back again, in 1962.
Publication of Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures and the subsequent release of the acclaimed 2016 film brought the story of the important roles played by Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson to light for the first time for many.
While their story may have been little known for decades, struggles for opportunity and inclusion are familiar to many women and to members of under-represented minorities or other groups working to make a career in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field.
Findings on gender equity from the latest SPIE Optics and Photonics Global Salary report indicate that women in the field lag behind men in salary and in representation in management and senior academic positions.
The cost…