Focused Laser Light sets Cells Flying – Non-contact Harvesting of Biological Specimens for Research and Diagnostics

(f.l.t.r.) Dr. rer. nat. Carsten Hoyer, Dr. rer. nat. Karin Schütze, Dr. rer. nat. Yilmaz Niyaz

Dr. rer. nat. Karin Schütze (Spokesperson)
Dr. rer. nat. Carsten Hoyer
Dr. rer. nat. Yilmaz Niyaz

P.A.L.M. Microlaser Technologies, Bernried

In searching for new forms of treatment for diseases, researchers often work with individual cells.
What do the tools look like that are capable of handling the sensitive building blocks of life both efficiently and gently?

An instrument ideally suited to this purposed was developed by Karin Schütze, Carsten Hoyer and Yilmaz Niyaz of P.A.L.M. Microlaser Technologies GmbH in Bernried. Karin Schülze is head of innovation management at the company; Carsten Hoyer manages the department Development & Science. Yilmaz Niyaz is an application specialist.

High purity is decisive
When doing research on genes and proteins, it essential that all specimens are as pure as possible. Only pure specimens provide indisputable analyses and allow individual molecules to be classified to certain cell functions – in order to be able to identify the mechanisms involved in the development of diseases. The Laser Pressure Catapulting process developed by Karin Schütze and her husband, Raimund, is the first technique to reliably harvest and handle pure cell samples. This technology has been integrated in the “MicroBeam System” of the company P.A.L.M. Microlaser Technologies which the Schützes founded.

The unique feature of this novel preparation technique is that it works exclusively with laser light; the sample has no contact with mechanical tools. A highly bundled laser beam is directed at a tissue sample under a microscope. The laser cuts individual cells or cell areas from the tissue and transports them into a sample vessel. The contactless cutting and transport prevents contamination of the sample. The cell is removed by means of a catapult: the laser is focused slightly beneath the sample, which accurately ejects the cell sample into the capture vessel.

Simplying tumor analysis
This method can be used to study cancer cells. Using the microlaser tool, individual cells in tissue biopsies are isolated and catapulted into a reactor. They are then subjected to molecular-biological analysis to determine whether the cells are cancerous. The results provide evidence on what type of tumor is present and how aggressive it is. While samples for a diagnosis of cancer are usually a mixture of tumor cells, inflammatory cells, and healthy cells the new laser tool is capable of harvesting nothing but tumor cells, thereby simplifying analysis.

To date some 600 laser MicroBeam systems are in use worldwide – for example, in forensics: saliva, hair, and sperm samples or skin cells are catapulted by laser beam into crime-lab receptacles to produce a genetic fingerprint of the perpetrator.

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