MEDICAL-LASER APPLICATIONS

A compact erbium-laser-based device for drawing blood will be developed by solid-state-laser manufacturer JMAR (San Diego, CA) and marketed by medical-device manufacturer Becton Dickinson (Franklin Lakes, NJ). The product is intended to help protect health-care practitioners and patients from accidental transmission of infectious diseases during the blood-drawing process by eliminating the need for needles and lancets.

MEDICAL-LASER APPLICATIONS

Firms target blood-drawing market with 2.94-?m laser

Kathy Kincade

A compact erbium-laser-based device for drawing blood will be developed by solid-state-laser manufacturer JMAR (San Diego, CA) and marketed by medical-device manufacturer Becton Dickinson (Franklin Lakes, NJ). The product is intended to help protect health-care practitioners and patients from accidental transmission of infectious diseases during the blood-drawing process by eliminating the need for needles and lancets.

According to JMAR, the pocket-sized, battery-powered blood-drawing device will use a diode-pumped Er:YAG laser with output at 2.94 ?m to make a minute incision in the fingertip of a patient to take a small sample of blood for analysis. The instrument features a disposable tip that isolates the skin from the rest of the device and is discarded after each use.

In addition to blood drawing, JMAR says the diode-pumped-laser technology that lies at the heart of this product could be used for a variety of other medical and industrial applications. The technology was originally developed in connection with the company?s ongoing x-ray lithography program for microcircuit manufacturing.

The first commercial Olaser perforatorO was pioneered by LaBarge (St. Louis, MO) and Venisect (Little Rock, AR), which have been jointly developing an erbium-laser-based product since 1993 and are currently awaiting US Federal Drug Administration clearance. Their compact, battery-operated device is flashlamp-pumped and provides up to 1 J of energy at very low average powers (see photo). A modified version is also under investigation for laser-assisted drug delivery. In preclinical work, researchers have shown that the erbium-laser device can alter the outermost layer of human skin and significantly improve transdermal delivery of a variety of drugs?including insulin, interferon, hydrocortisone, and a lidocaine solution?without the need for needles and syringes.

Cell Robotics (Albuquerque, NM) is equally serious about entering the blood-drawing market. Last January the company obtained exclusive rights to an erbium-laser blood-sampling device developed by New Technology Enterprise Center (Troitsk, Russia). Cell Robotics has now given GEM Edwards Inc. (Cleveland, OH), a distributor of diabetes products, exclusive license to manufacture and distribute the product in the USA.

However, LaBarge/Venisect and Cell Robotics may face a potential market barrier: a US patent reportedly owned by Becton Dickinson that covers the basic concept of creating a hole in the skin with a laser. According to industry sources, this patent was acquired by Becton Dickinson in 1994 from a former member of the Russian Academy who moved to the United States in 1991 and was granted the patent in 1992. Becton Dickinson declined to comment on the existence of the patent.

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