Laser Scissors and Tweezers; April 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Berns; 6 Page(s)
The intense, pure beams of light known as lasers are now standard components of such commonplace objects as compact-disc players and printers. The everyday presence of lasers does not mean, however, that they have been reduced to performing only pedestrian tasks. Imagine focusing a beam specifically onto an organelle, a structure within a living cell. Consider further that the beam can actually grasp that minuscule entity and hold it in place. Now imagine that while this "microbeam" acts as tweezers, a second beam serves as scalpel or scissors to conduct delicate surgery on the organelle.
Even in a world accustomed to lasers, such musings have the ring of science fiction. Nevertheless, much as medical surgeons guide micromachined tweezers and scissors through endoscopes to perform minimally invasive surgery on organs, the cell biologist can now use "laser tweezers" and "laser scissors" to perform minimally invasive manipulations on living cells and their organelles.