Alphabet ($GOOG) (formerly Google) has filed a patent for a laser ablation device for the removal of surgical tissue via electromagnetic radiation, demonstrating the med tech ambitions of its medical arm, Google Life Sciences.
The device is supposed to include a laser that aims beams of electromagnetic radiation at sections of the tissue based on information provided by a sensor for detecting high-temperature regions of tissue, according to the just-published patent application with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
The application's abstract states: "An active tracking system includes an imager configured to image the temperature of a biological tissue and a heating laser configured to heat regions of the biological tissue. The imager locates high-temperature regions of the biological tissue and the heating laser is controlled to point toward target regions of the biological tissue based on the located high-temperature regions. The active tracking system can be used to control a heating laser to continuously heat a target region of a biological tissue even when the target region moves relative to the heating laser. The active tracking system could allow one or more target regions of a biological tissue to be `tagged` with heat by the heating laser and to be tracked even when the one or more target regions move relative to the heating laser. Devices and methods for operating such active tracking systems are also provided."
More specifically, the imaging works by detecting infrared light received from the biological tissue and then relation relating it to a temperature, according to the application. There's also a controller to operate the imager and heating laser.
The device would add to the plethora of technology available to negate undesirable tissue. As Google Life Sciences explains in the application, "A number of scientific methods have been developed to destroy, damage, excise, ablate, or otherwise alter biological tissues (e.g., malignant cancerous tumors). The methods include the use of sharpened surgical implements to remove the tissues by cutting, heated surgical implements to remove, ablate, or otherwise damage the tissues by the application of high temperatures, and the application of electrical and/or electromagnetic energies (e.g., RF energy, laser light) directly or indirectly to the tissues to induce changes in the tissues through the application of heat and/or electrical fields, or through other methods."
The patent was filed in May 2014, but was published 18 months later, in line with the U.S. PTO's policy.
Like most medical technology described in patent applications, Google Life Sciences' laser doesn't appear to be near commercialization. But it certainly demonstrates the company's research interests and desire to become a med tech player, in case the myriad partnerships with industry players like Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) around robotic surgery and Novartis ($NVS) around smart contact lenses aren't enough.
Google Life Sciences chief medical officer and FierceMedicalDevices' woman in med tech Dr. Jessica Mega said in an email Google Life Sciences is interested in treating a range of chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and neurological disorders. Its financials and inner workings will be revealed for the first time during January's earnings release, when each Alphabet business segment will report results for the time.
Disclosures like patent applications will continue to be a useful means of keeping track of the secretive company's whereabouts, however.
- read the patent application