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New non-invasive technology could replace X-rays, mammograms

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Raman, spectroscopy, health news

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(NaturalNews) Is it really possible for a simple, safe laser beam to detect the early signs of diseases like tooth decay, osteoporosis and even cancer, eliminating the need to use other more invasive technologies? According to researchers, the answer is yes. Such technology already exists, it works and it could become widely available for use within the next five years, they say.

Raman spectroscopes, as they are called, measure the wavelength and intensity of the scattered light emitted from molecules, and uses these measurements to identify the presence of the biological markers of disease. So in essence, the technology will one day be able to replace a host of other diagnostic procedures that are invasive, time-consuming and even risky to health.

"You can replace a lot of procedures, a lot of diagnostics that are out there right now," said Michael Morris, a chemistry professor at the University of Michigan, to BBC News. "The big advantage is that [the technology is] non-invasive, pretty fast -- much faster than classical procedures -- and more accurate."

Raman spectroscopy is already used in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries for similar functions, but its potential in the medical industry makes it even more viable. Because the laser is able to identify even slight changes in the chemical mixes of tissues and bones, its uses are limitless.

"Raman gives you a molecular fingerprint, a composition of whatever it is you're measuring," explained Morris. "We turn on the laser and after we've collected enough signal in a few minutes, we turn it of. In principle, it will take a couple of seconds to interpret the results."

As opposed to traditional blood tests that involve drawing blood with needles, Ramen spectroscopes will simply be able to analyze blood through the skin, for instance. And instead of having to undergo mammograms, which expose them to repeated levels of dangerous radiation, women can instead be scanned with a Ramen spectroscope to identify the presence of benign or malignant tissue abnormalities.

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