What's the Latest Development?
Cancer surgery may have become just a little easier thanks to the development of an intelligent knife, or "iKnife," that determines whether a tissue sample is cancerous within seconds of making contact. Created by Dr. Zoltan Takats of Imperial College London, it works like a typical electrosurgical knife in that it uses electrical current to vaporize tissue as it cuts, minimizing blood loss. The difference is that the smoke created during the process is collected by a mass spectrometer, which then analyzes it for chemical signatures that are compared against an online database. In real-world tests on 91 patients, the iKnife correctly diagnosed all of the tissue samples taken.
What's the Big Idea?
During surgery, it can be very difficult to determine which tissue is cancerous and which is healthy by sight alone. However, in order to minimize a recurrence, all of the cancerous tissue must be removed. By providing diagnostic feedback during the surgery rather than afterwards -- when the sample has to go to a lab for analysis -- the iKnife greatly improves the likelihood of success. Takats says that the device could help identify other conditions as well, such as the types of bacteria present.
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