A New Surgical Knife Identifies Cancerous Tissue As Doctors Are Cutting It Out | Smart News | Smithsonian
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A New Surgical Knife Identifies Cancerous Tissue As Doctors Are Cutting It Out

The knife cauterizes tissue and then analyzes the smoke produced by the burning flesh using mass spectrometry

smithsonian.com

Mid-surgery, doctors sometimes question whether or not a particular bit of tissue is cancerous or not. This can cause delays as they hustle to send the sample over to the lab for analysis—not a great thing for a patient who’s on the operating table. Now, researchers from Imperial College London have introduced a potential fix for this problem: the intelligent knife, or iKnife, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The knife cauterizes tissue and then analyzes the smoke produced by the burning flesh using mass spectrometry, which determines whether the smoke comes from cancerous tissues by reading unique lipid signatures. In initial trials with thousands of cancerous and non-cancerous samples, the iKnife made a diagnosis in seconds with 100 percent accuracy, compared with conventional methods of diagnosis.

Bone and skin tissue proved most elusive for the iKnife since they don’t evaporate as readily as more fleshy organs, but the researchers think the iKnife could improve surgery times if it can gain clinical approval. Other doctors not involved in the study expressed concern to the LA Times about the utility of vaporizing potentially healthy tissue to test for cancer.

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