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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
New tool to inject cancer drugs
A doctor surgeon performs laser surgery
The new tool could improve non-invasive surgery techniques
Scientists at Dundee and St Andrews universities have won a 2m research grant to develop a revolutionary non-invasive surgical technique.

The teams plan to use laser and ultrasound technology to develop a cancer-treating tool.

The researchers hope to use "tweezers" made out of light beams to manipulate cells, and a pulse of ultrasound energy will inject them with a drug treatment.

Dundee University has also been awarded funding to improve keyhole surgery.

Dr Paul Campbell, at the University of Dundee, and Professor Kishan Dholakia, of the University of St Andrews, are to lead the work to develop the dual technology medical device.

The over-riding objective for this project is to revolutionise the activation and delivery of molecules into live biological materials
Dr Paul Campbell
Dundee University

They were awarded the funding through the UK 'Basic Technology' Programme, administered by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Dr Campbell said the market for drug delivery technology was estimated to be worth about $30bn in the USA alone.

He added: "The over-riding objective for this project is to revolutionise the activation and delivery of genes, drugs and therapeutic molecules into live biological materials.

"Developing a means to controllably deliver drugs at remote anatomical sites, yet in a very non-invasive fashion, is a significant challenge of heightened academic and industrial interest."

Prof Dholakia said the tool should enable them to inject any molecule into any cell.

Magnetising tissue

"Indeed, we have shown that even genetic material can be introduced into cells using the laser-based approach with successful downstream biological effects," he said.

The scientists will work closely with Prof Sir Alfred Cuschieri at Dundee University's medical school.

Prof Cuschieri has just been awarded a 110,000 government grant to fund a one-year project to improve the effectiveness of keyhole surgery and cancer treatment by making patients magnetic.

Experts believe that giving tissue magnetic properties would help surgeons feel and work on the tissue they are operating on within the "keyhole".

It may also help prevent tumour cells escaping from an operation site into a patient's blood stream.

The research will investigate various ways to make tissue magnetic, including using ultrasound and laser technology to force the particles into cells.

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