Medical and Biotechnology

Lasers in medicine and biotechnology open up a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic applications. In particular, since laser-based optical measuring and processing processes do not need to touch the object, they are ideal tools for sterile conditions and in highly selective applications. While ophthalmic laser processes such as LASIK have largely become established in the market, microsurgical applications can still unlock great potential for new applications. In this context, Fraunhofer ILT is developing novel measurement methods based on optical coherence tomography (OCT), with which surgical procedures can be performed at micrometer precision.

In addition to the diagnostic and laser-based therapeutic methods, the field of tissue engineering is becoming increasingly important thanks to advances in laser technology. In this field, Fraunhofer ILT is looking at all aspects of tissue engineering – from material development to the production of biocompatible structures and their production with the laser all the way to the appropriate process measurement technology. This also includes the handling of biological material from classical cell lines to primary material. Suitable laboratories with S1 and, if necessary, S2 certification are available for this purpose. Moreover, the demand for innovative solutions is growing in implant technology. Based on patient-specific data, individual dental prostheses, artificial hip joints and bone substitutes for tumor treatments can be produced by laser-assisted 3D printing.

As increasingly personalized medicine continues to develop, new challenges in diagnostics and analytics emerge. Light as a non-contact instrument offers great advantages, both in the manufacture of appropriate instruments and in diagnostics itself. For the former, Fraunhofer ILT is developing various lab-on-a-chip solutions with which, for example, fast multiplex diagnostics are possible.

Micrometer-accurate placement of biological substances with the LIFT process

LIFT module with Raman spectrometer.
© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.
LIFT module with Raman spectrometer.

The production of biological test systems is often limited by the viscosity of the biological substances to be applied to an analysis chip. To date, printing techniques require highly aqueous carrier liquids and do not allow accurate positioning of the analyte. With the LIFTSYS® system developed at Fraunhofer ILT, laser-induced forward transfer (LIFT) enables the micrometer-precise placement of minute amounts of biological substances and even single living cells with almost no restrictions. A pulsed laser beam is used to transmit the targeted sample material by a forward pulse from a carrier to a receiver. The process eliminates the need for a printing head and can transmit biomaterials such as RNA, DNA, proteins and cells regardless of viscosity.

A broad field of applications can be found in medical and pharmaceutical research, in which the reactions of cells to drugs can be investigated and microscopic interactions of cells conducted reproducibly. In addition, LIFT can be used to produce microstructures for sensors or scaffold structures of artificial organs.

Laser osteotome for awake brain surgery

Applikator zur Umsetzung des Laserschneidprozesses am Schädelknochen.
© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen.
Applikator zur Umsetzung des Laserschneidprozesses am Schädelknochen.

For neurosurgery, researchers have developed novel therapeutic methods that not only significantly improve the quality of life, but also the survival rate of critically ill patients. These methods require, however, that the patient be operated on while awake since complex functions such as speech must be tested during awake brain surgery, yet removing bone from the skull with drills and burrs causes the patient extreme stress. For this reason, a laser osteotome is being developed at Fraunhofer ILT in close collaboration with experts in neurosurgery. This laser osteotome can be used to open the skull bone without vibration or noise, thus significantly reducing the psychological stress as well as the risk of injury for the patient.

For a safe, vibration-free and low-noise ablation process, the drill and cutter are replaced by a MIR (Mid-Infrared) laser beam source, which emits nanosecond pulses with pulse energies in the millijoule range. Synchronized with the cutting process, an OCT (optical coherence tomography) measuring beam determines the local cutting depth and residual thickness of the bone to control and stop the cutting process shortly before the bone is cut through. In this way, the cutting depth control protects the structures of the brain located under the skull bone.

Fields of application for the laser osteotome are awake operations for the treatment of complex movement disorders. Awake operations are also becoming increasingly important in the surgical treatment of low-grade gliomas (brain tumors).

The project is being funded by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft as part of the ATTRACT research program under the project name STELLA.

Projects with participation of the Fraunhofer ILT

Strategic Fraunhofer Projects

A selection of strategic projects involving the Fraunhofer ILT can be found on our cluster website.

Current Collaborative Projects

Here you will find a selection of current collaborative projects in which Fraunhofer ILT is involved.

Completed Collaborative Projects

Here you will find a selection of completed collaborative projects in which Fraunhofer ILT is involved.

Annual Report

In our current annual report you will find a selection of further project results.

Contact Research & Development

Dr. Achim Lenenbach (acting)

“Measurement Technology
and EUV Sources”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-124
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Dipl.-Ing. Hans-Dieter Hoffmann

“Lasers and Laser Optics”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-206
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Prof. Arnold Gillner

“Ablation and Joining”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-148
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Jasmin Saewe M.Sc.

“Laser Powder Bed Fusion”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-135
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Dr. Thomas Schopphoven

“Laser Material Deposition”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-8107
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Dr. Jochen Stollenwerk (acting)

“Functional Layers and Surfaces”

 

Telephone +49 241 8906-398
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