ENGINEERINGNET.EU - 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.
In cancers involving solid tumors, removal of the cancer in surgery is generally the best hope for treatment. The surgeon normally takes out the tumor with a margin of healthy tissue. However, it is often impossible to tell by sight which tissue is cancerous.
The iKnife is based on electrosurgery, a technology invented in the 1920s that is commonly used today. Electrosurgical knives use an electrical current to rapidly heat tissue, cutting through it while minimising blood loss.
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.
Although the current study focused on cancer diagnosis, Dr Takats says his nife can identify many other features, such as tissue with an inadequate blood supply, or types of bacteria present in the tissue. He has also carried out experiments using it to distinguish horsemeat from beef.