Mechanisms of laser-induced dissection and transport of histologic specimens

Alfred Vogel*, Kathrin Lorenz, Verena Horneffer, Gereon Hüttmann, Dorthe Von Smolinski, Andreas Gebert

*Corresponding author for this work
57 Citations (Scopus)


Rapid contact- and contamination-free procurement of histologic material for proteomic and genomic analysis can be achieved by laser microdissection of the sample of interest followed by laser-induced transport (laser pressure catapulting). The dynamics of laser microdissection and laser pressure catapulting of histologic samples of 80 μm diameter was investigated by means of time-resolved photography. The working mechanism of microdissection was found to be plasmamediated ablation initiated by linear absorption. Catapulting was driven by plasma formation when tightly focused pulses were used, and by photothermal ablation at the bottom of the sample when defocused pulses producing laser spot diameters larger than 35 μm were used. With focused pulses, driving pressures of several hundred MPa accelerated the specimen to initial velocities of 100-300 m/s before they were rapidly slowed down by air friction. When the laser spot was increased to a size comparable to or larger than the sample diameter, both driving pressure and flight velocity decreased considerably. Based on a characterization of the thermal and optical properties of the histologic specimens and supporting materials used, we calculated the evolution of the heat distribution in the sample. Selected catapulted samples were examined by scanning electron microscopy or analyzed by real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. We found that catapulting of dissected samples results in little collateral damage when the laser pulses are either tightly focused or when the laser spot size is comparable to the specimen size. By contrast, moderate defocusing with spot sizes up to one-third of the specimen diameter may involve significant heat and ultraviolet exposure. Potential side effects are maximal when samples are catapulted directly from a glass slide without a supporting polymer foil.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)4481-4500
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 15.12.2007

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Biomedical Engineering


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