A new laser technology which can facilitate painless cancer biopsies has been developed by researchers at Michigan State University, US.

The new technology uses laser microscopes that generate rapid, ultra-short pulses to painlessly scan suspected moles and identify cancerous molecules on the spot.

The molecule-selective technology can also be used to study how compounds penetrate skin and hair, as well as the interaction between drugs and tissue – which can accelerate the time required to bring new drugs to market.

Study researcher Marcos Dantus said that smart lasers make it possible to selectively excite compounds – even ones with small spectroscopic differences.

"We can shape the pulse of the lasers, excite one compound or another based on their vibrational signatures, and this gives us excellent contrast," Dantus said.