Introducing the knife that can detect cancer!

Screen shot from YouTube. Link is at the bottom of the article.

Screen shot from YouTube. Link is at the bottom of the article.

When a solid tumour is involved, surgery is usually the route used to remove the cancer but it’s not an easy task being able to remove the entire tumour without leaving a little behind, or removing the tumour without cutting into healthy tissue. However using technology based on electrosurgery, the researchers at Imperial College London have come up with a solution which can tell surgeons whether or not they are cutting into cancerous or healthy tissue.

Electrosurgery is commonly used in surgery today to minimize blood loss. By using an electrical current, it can heat up tissue rapidly and make a clean cut. This leads to the tissue being burnt away and creates smoke. The smoke however is rich in biological information, which can be analysed by a mass spectrometer. So, by attaching a mass spectrometer to an electrosurgical knife Dr. Zoltan Takas created the iknife.

At first the researchers of Imperial College London used the iknife to analyse many samples from 302 surgical patients, recording the different properties of cancerous to non-cancerous tissue. These recordings included data from the lung, brain, breasts and liver tumours. This then produced a reference library that the iknife uses to crosscheck the information given in surgery to determine what type of tissue is being cut; this information is then relayed back in a matter of seconds!

The iknife was then put to the test in the operating theater.  91 real-time analysis tests were performed and the iknife had accurately confirmed what type of tissue it was cutting and if it was cancerous. Providing results almost instantly the iknife is an incredibly accurate new tool, which can be applied to various cancer surgery procedures.

 Findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine and you can find out more on Imperial news.

Featured image from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eci1cHf1e5E

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Lisa Hoang

I'm just your ordinary graduate, who loves science and writing about it. I'm completely new to science nutshell, so sorry if my posts aren't to the calibre of some of the posts found on here. However I hope you enjoy what I write anyway! And of course I would love to hear your opinion on the things I do post. Feel free to drop me an email 😀
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