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100 scientists gather at St Andrews

The humble ray of light may not be the first thing that comes to mind in the search for the medical breakthroughs of the future, but an international workshop hosted by the University of St Andrews next week on Medical Photonics will focus on just that: ways in which light can be used to diagnose and treat disease.

Imagine using light to detect and treat cancer, inject drugs into cells, analyse tears for signs of disease, look deep inside tissue without cutting it. These are just some of the applications 100 physicists, biologists and clinicians from around the world will discuss when they gather at the University on January 29-30 to learn about new breakthroughs from this exciting field that operates at the intersection of medicine, biology and physics. Among the highlights from St Andrews researchers is Professor Ifor Samuel’s “light bandage” (developed in collaboration with the University of Dundee’s Professor James Ferguson) that skin cancer patients can wear like a sticking plaster. Professor Simon Herrington from the Bute Medical School will talk about projects related to early diagnosis of cancer using cutting- edge laser technology and Dr Frank Gunn-Moore from the School of Biology will describe how light can even assist neuronal cell growth.

Researchers from other institutions will form the central part of the meeting. Professor Sir Alfred Cuschieri from the University of Dundee, with which St Andrews operates the Interdisciplinary Centre for Medical Photonics, will discuss the future role of advanced technology in medical practice. Professor Warren S. Warren of Duke University in the United States will deliver one of two keynote talks, about using light to look deep inside tissue.

New developments in Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), the technology behind the “light bandage” that offers a different way to treat cancer, will be the subject of a keynote lecture by Professor Brian Wilson from Toronto, Canada.

Talks will highlight collaborative research between St Andrews and Dundee including new methods that aim to deliver drugs directly at the cellular and tissue level. One uses light to guide tiny bubbles of drugs right to the edges of cells and burst them there, while another uses light to puncture tiny holes in the cells allowing absorption of the drug. This has formed the core of a recent Basic Technology grant to the team worth £2M.

Professor Kishan Dholakia, the meeting organiser, said, “We are all very excited and enthused to hold this prestigious and topical meeting at St Andrews. It is a key international forum to discuss such important topics for future fundamental interdisciplinary work as well as real breakthroughs for healthcare. The future for light in medicine and biology certainly looks very bright.”

For further information please contact Mrs Sandra Murray, conference administrator and PA to Kishan Dholakia on 01334 462264

Conference website: http://www.st- andrews.ac.uk/% 7Eopttrap/MPW07/index.htm

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews Ref: Future is bright 260107.doc Contact 01334 462529 / 467227 View the latest University press releases at http://www.st- andrews.ac.uk

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