Researchers have developed a surgical knife that can analyze the smoke made as it cuts tissue and determine whether cells are cancerous or healthy. The “iKnife” can read out results in 1-3 seconds, whereas it can take up to 30 minutes for a doctor to examine a tissue sample.
ScienceNOW reports that Hungarian chemist Zoltán Takáts discovered that the vapor containing ionized molecules could be analyzed by a mass spectrometer. His team at the Imperial College London have tested the “iKnife” in the operating room.
Almost 3,000 tissue samples were collected from about 300 cancer patients’ surgeries and pathologists identified if a sample was healthy tissue or a type of cancer. Each result was then matched up with the lipid profile received by touching the iKnife to the same sample.
The iKnife was found to be able to distinguish normal and tumor tissues from different organs and could even identify the origin of a tumor that was a secondary growth. The researchers also tried out the iKnife during 91 cancer surgeries using the 3,000-sample database as a reference.
The iKnife results matched pathology lab results after the surgery for cancerous and normal tissues for nearly all patients. The team next plan to conduct clinical trials to find out if using the iKnife helps patients develop fewer recurring tumors and live longer.