iKnife “Sniffing Scalpel” Technology Could Revolutionize Breast Cancer Surgery

iKnife “Sniffing Scalpel” Technology Could Revolutionize Breast Cancer Surgery
An innovative medical device dubbed an "intelligent knife,"or "iKnife" that has been under development for several years by a team of researchers at Imperial College, London, is entering clinical trials. The iKnife's marquee capability is detecting cancer cells in smoke emitted by body tissues during electrocautery, a technique that uses an electric current to rapidly heat soft tissue so that surgeons can cut through it with minimal loss of blood. Electrocautery has largely supplanted old-school techniques that utilize a keen cutting edge and muscle power, and the gases it releases as tissue burns at the point of incision carries the molecular signature of the tissue. The team of Imperial scientists led by the surgical innovator Professor Ara Darzi, a Professor of Surgery at Imperial College London and Honorary Consultant Surgeon at Imperial College Hospital NHS Trust, and Professor Jeremy Nicholson, who has pioneered the science of metabonomics, say that with the iKnife, surgeons are given a near real-time (approximately three seconds) running assessment of whether cells of tissues being incised are healthy or cancerous, instantly providing information that normally takes up to half an hour to reveal using laboratory tests, according to the device's development team. Because some vapors released by electrocautery can be potentially harmful, the emissions are usually scavenged and directed into an evacuation system. With the iKnife, they are instead routed into a mass spectrometer, which gives a rapid readout of the chemical c
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