'Intelligent Knife' Tells Surgeon Which Tissue Is Cancerous

Combining an iKnife, which cuts tissue with electricity producing smoke, with a mass spectrometer created a new surgery tool which can distinguish cancerous from normal tissue in 3 seconds. What a breakthrough! I hope they rush the development so ordinary surgeons can use them soon. Short video

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Scientists have developed an "intelligent knife" that can tell surgeons immediately whether the tissue they are cutting is cancerous or not.

In the first study to test the invention in the operating theatre, the "iKnife" diagnosed tissue samples from 91 patients with 100 per cent accuracy, instantly providing information that normally takes up to half an hour to reveal using laboratory tests.

Electrosurgical knives use an electrical current to rapidly heat tissue, cutting through it while minimising blood loss. In doing so, they vaporise the tissue, creating smoke that is normally sucked away by extraction systems.

The inventor of the iKnife, Dr Zoltan Takats of Imperial College London, realised that this smoke would be a rich source of biological information. To create the iKnife, he connected an electrosurgical knife to a mass spectrometer, an analytical instrument used to identify what chemicals are present in a sample. Different types of cell produce thousands of metabolites in different concentrations, so the profile of chemicals in a biological sample can reveal information about the state of that tissue.

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The intelligent knife doesn't replace a surgeon, just gives him or her an improved tool. It does seem closer to medicine depicted in Star Trek though.

Dr. Zoltan Takats offers an example of great thinking. Identify a problem, pay attention to resources ... who would have thought that smoke from tissue could be a resource? He made a connection between what is real and what is possible. 

Remember the old PBS program, Connections! One of my all time favorite programs. Burke calls attention to the evolution of ideas over time and place. Fascinating. 

James Burke : Connections, Episode 1, "The Trigger Effect", 1 of 5 ...

A good point about the connection between Connections and invention of the Intelligent Knife.


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