Physicists Dmitri Lapotko and Jason Hafner created the nanobubbles by placing gold nanoparticles in cancer cells and then zapping them with short laser pulses, the university said in a release.
"The bubbles work like a jackhammer," Lapotko said, noting the goal is to identify and treat unhealthy cells early, before a disease progresses.
Lapotko first used the technique to blast through deposits of arterial plaque in studies at the Laboratory for Laser Cytotechnologies at the A.V. Lykov Heat and Mass Transfer Institute in Minsk, Belarus.
At Rice, the approach was tested successfully on leukemia cells and cells from head and neck cancers, Laptko and Hafner wrote in recent issue of the journal Nanotechnology.
The nanobubble technique could prove useful for "theranostics," a single process that combines diagnosis and therapy, the scientists said.
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