A Surgical knife that “smells” the tissue it cuts.

Picture Credit: BBC

Scientists at Imperial College London have developed a knife that can smell out tumors’ to improve cancer surgery in humans. Early results, in the journal Science Translational Medicine, showed the “iKnife” could accurately identify cancerous tissue on the spot.

The Imperial College London team hopes to overcome the dangerous and common problem of leaving bits of the tumor in a patient, which can grow up alive again. To avoid leaving cancerous tissue behind, surgeons also remove surrounding tissues.

The team at Imperial College London modified a surgical knife that uses heat to cut through tissue. Tests on 91 patients showed that the knife could accurately tell what type of tissue it was cutting and if it was cancerous.

The smoke is sucked into a hi-tech “nose” called a mass spectrometer. It detects the subtle differences between the smoke of cancerous and healthy tissue. “It provides a result almost instantly, allowing a surgeon to carry out procedures with a level of accuracy that hasn’t been possible before.

Dr Zoltan Takats, who invented the system at Imperial, said: “These results provide compelling evidence that the iKnife can be applied in a wide range of cancer surgery procedures.

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