Liposuction may be a popular method of instant body fat reduction, but it certainly isn't perfect. Patients can experience bruising, there can be lumps that have to be addressed with a second procedure, plus things other than fat cells – such as connective tissue and nerves – can inadvertently also get removed. Two researchers, however, are developing what could be a better form of liposuction, that involves first using injected gold microparticles to melt the fat.

The technique was conceived by University of California, San Diego nanomedicine expert Adah Almutairi, and her brother Khalid who is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. They were inspired by earlier research in which injected gold nanoparticles were drawn specifically to cancer cells, then heated up using near-infrared light to effectively "cook" those cells while leaving others unharmed.

The Almutairis believe that something similar could be done to fat cells.

In their process, gold nanoparticles would first be injected into fat deposits in a patient's body. Those areas would then be subjected to near-infrared light, causing the particles to heat up. Because of fat's relatively low melting temperature, the fat in the deposits would liquify before any harm could occur to other cells.

A liposuction needle could then be inserted and used to simply suck out the melted fat and the nanoparticles. In traditional liposuction, the needle is scraped back and forth through solid fat, breaking it up while also vacuuming it out.

Animal trials are now underway, with the possibility of human trials later this year. The technology is being developed by startup firm eLux Medical, and is called NanoLipo.

An article on the research was recently published in Chemical & Engineering News.