Caltech (KTLA)

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- Since the very early days of surgery, one thing has never changed: you have to cut through the skin to fix what's inside.

That may be about to change. Changhuei Yang, professor at California Institute of Technology, and his students are working on inventing surgery without cutting.

The procedure directs powerful light and ultrasound to allow doctors see what's behind the skin.

Previously, light could only be focused about one millimeter deep. Yang's team is now able to focus two and a half millimeters under the skin and could reach as far as a few inches into tissue.

Eventually, doctors could use the same kind of focused beam to safely scan your body with much higher resolution and less radiation risk than an x-ray, CAT Scan or MRI.

That might allow doctors to look at cancer formation at a much earlier stage.

"It enables the possibilities of doing incision-less surgery," Yang, a professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering, said in a Caltech statement. "By generating a tight laser-focus spot deep in tissue, we can potentially use that as a laser scalpel that leaves the skin unharmed."

Yang and his researchers say that doctors could start using the technology within 10 years if digital technology improves.

Ying Min Wang, a graduate student in electrical engineering, and Benjamin Judkewitz, a postdoctoral scholar, are leading researchers on Yang's team.