In an effort to combine sophisticated laser and Internettechnologies, scientists in Australia have successfully performed lasersurgery and “optical trapping” in a Southern California laboratory viathe Internet.
The scientists used a new Internet-based laserscissor-and-tweezers technology called RoboLase, demonstrating thepotential of using the technology for real-time research activitiesbetween laboratories and for physicians to perform medical proceduresfrom distant locations.
In a proof-of-principle series ofexperiments, the scientists from UC Irvine, UC San Diego and theUniversity of Queensland employed RoboLase to produce surgical holes ina distinct pattern of less than one micron in diameter (1/1000th of amillimeter) in single cells. Utilizing a control panel projected onto acomputer screen, Queensland researchers were able to remotely performthe cell surgery on a laser microscope system in the SouthernCalifornia laboratory.
“The speed and precision of thesub-cellular surgery was equal to what it would be like if we weredoing the same surgery in our labs here in California,” said MichaelBerns, professor of biomedical engineering at UCI and adjunct professorof bioengineering at UCSD, who led the development of the RoboLasetechnology.
In addition, the scientists were able to grab onto –or “optically trap” – swimming sperm in the California lab by operatingoptical-laser tweezers remotely from Australia. This was a particularlynoteworthy accomplishment, because it demonstrated the amount ofcomputer bandwidth (1 gigabyte/second) needed by the Australia andCalifornia research groups to observe and grab a fast-moving sperm withvirtually no detectible delay in image transmission between the twolaboratories.
“If there was a detectible delay in either thetransmission or reception of the video images, our colleagues inAustralia would not have been able to identify and trap a targetedsperm under the laser microscope in the California laboratory,” addedLinda Shi of UCSD, one of the key developers of the unique computersoftware that was used in the sperm-trapping experiments.
Accordingto Berns, who is the founding director of the Beckman Laser Instituteat UCI, the general significance of this work is that researchers cannow collaborate on experiments with scientists around the world usingthis expensive and sophisticated instrumentation without having totravel to a single laboratory site. It also serves to demonstrate thatthe Internet will become increasingly more useful and important for theactual conduct of scientific research and possibly for the delivery ofselective medical procedures.
“This technology is now accessibleto other scientists who may not have easy access to it,” added ElliotBotvinick, a Beckman Fellow at UCI and co-developer of the RoboLasetechnology. “And the instrumentation can be used over the Internet as alearning tool by students just about anywhere in the world.”
Theresearch is being presented today at the International Society forOptical Engineering meeting in San Diego and will be published in theSeptember issue of the journal Microscopy Research and Technique.
HalinaRubensztein-Dunlop, professor of physics and head of the team at theUniversity of Queensland, participated in study, which received fundingsupport from the United States Air Force, the National Institutes ofHealth and the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.
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