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Revolutionary iKnife 'smells' out the differences between cancer and healthy tissues

A scalpel that distinguish the differences between cancerous and healthy tissuehas been developed by Zoltan Takats and Jeremy Nicholson of Imperial College London,

This revolutionary scalpel dubbed iknife gives instant feedback to surgeons about the tissue that they are cutting into, and if the tumor has entirely been removed.

This new instrument is based on electrocauterization, a surgical technique is used by surgeons to remove unwanted or harmful tissue and to burn and seal blood vessels, which helps reduce or stop bleeding.

The iKnife does the same work as the other knife , but instead of sending the smoke from the burned tissue into an extraction system, it sends it through a tube into a mass spectrometer that analyzes the molecules in the sample.

Using a traffic light" display system it indicates red for cancer and green healthy tissue, while yellow indicates that a region is still unidentified, showing surgeons instantly (instead of waiting for the pathology report) and exactly where the cancerous tissues are, and if it has been completely removed.

It could also allow surgeons to perform riskier operations, potentially improving cancer survival rates, and saving thousands of pounds per patient in costs.

In the early study that was published in Science Translational Medicine, the iKnife identified malignant tissue in 91 cancer patients having operations with a 100% accuracy and the iKnife is currently being tested at St Mary's, Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals in London.

"These results provide compelling evidence that the iKnife can be applied in a wide range of cancer surgery procedures," said Dr. Takats. "We believe it has the potential to reduce tumor recurrence rates and enable more patients to survive."

Modified versions of the iKnife could have a number of other non-medical applications, including food testing.

"We've already shown that it can distinguish between horse meat and beef, and it works on cooked as well as raw meat," Takats said.

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