Pulses Of Laser Light Can Kill Certain Viruses.
Scientists have discovered a new way to help kill viruses. A team of researchers led by K. T. Tsen from Arizona State University have recently shown that pulses of laser light can induce destructive vibrations in virus shells.
“The capsid of a virus resembles the shell of a turtle,” explains Otto Sankey, a physicist at Arizona State University. “If the shell can be compromised [in this case by mechanical vibrations], the virus can be inactivated.”
One famous example of resonate frequencies getting out of control is the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The wind which blew past the bridge caused it to rock back and forth at one of its resonant frequencies; the bridge began to warp and in 1940 finally collapsed.
The team hopes to use their technique to study complicated viruses such as HIV, in the hope to find safe drug free cures, however they are still a long way from perfecting the treatment.
One problem is that finding these resonant frequencies is extremely difficult. To expedite this search Sankey and his student Eric Dykeman have developed a way to calculate the vibrational motion of every atom in a virus shell. From this, they can determine the lowest resonant frequencies.
Another problem researcher’s face is that the laser light can not penetrate the skin very deeply. But Sankey imagines that a patient might be hooked up to a dialysis-like machine that cycles blood through a tube where it can be hit with a laser. Or perhaps, ultrasound can be used instead of lasers.
“This is such a new field, and there are so few experiments, that the science has not yet had sufficient time to prove itself,” Sankey said. “We remain hopeful but remain skeptical at the same time.”
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