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New surgical knife detects cancerous tissue

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A new surgical instrument has been developed by a group of researchers from Imperial College London.

The ‘intelligent knife' or iKnife is thought to identify cancerous cells in tissue, through an electrical current in the blade, which heats up the tissue producing a cloud of smoke. The knife then analyses the biological information in the smoke to determine whether it is cancerous or not. In its first test the iKnife diagnosed tissue samples from 91 patients with 100 per cent accuracy, instantly providing the information that can take up to half an hour to produce using laboratory tests.

Dr Zoltan Takats, the inventor of the iKnife, said: ‘These results provide compelling evidence that the iKnife can be applied in a wide range of cancer surgery procedures. It provides a result almost instantly, allowing a surgeon to carry out procedures with a level of accuracy that hasn't been possible before. We believe it has the potential to reduce tumour recurrence rates and enable more patients to survive.'

To create the iKnife, Dr Takats connected an electrosurgical knife to a mass spectrometer, an analytical instrument used to identify what chemicals are present in a sample.

While the current study focussed on cancer diagnosis, Dr Takats says that the iKnife can identify many other features, such as tissue with an inadequate blood supply or types of bacteria present.

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre, the European Research Council and the Hungarian National Office for Research and Technology.

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