This Pen Identifies Cancer in Just 10 Second. According to scientists at the University of Texas, a new handheld device called MasSpec Pen can identify 10 second and could make surgery to remove a tumour quicker, safer and more precise.
The scientists hope that this handheld device would avoid the “heartbreak” of leaving any of the cancer behind. The study was published in Science Translational Medicine, suggest the technology is accurate 96% of the time.
The MasSpec Pen takes help of the exclusive metabolism of cancer cells. Their furious drive to grow and spread means their internal chemistry is very different to that of healthy tissue.
How this handheld device works?
The pen is taped on to a suspected cancer and discharges a tiny drop of water. The chemicals inside the living cells move into the drop of water and later sucked back up the pen for examination.
The pen is plugged into a mass spectrometer – a piece of kit that can measure the mass of thousands of chemicals every second. It produces a chemical fingerprint that tells doctors whether they are looking at healthy tissue or cancer. The challenge for surgeons is finding the border between the cancer and normal tissue.
In some tumours it is obvious, but in others the boundary between healthy and diseased tissue can be blurred.The pen should help doctors ensure none of the cancer is left behind.
Remove too little tissue, and any remaining cancerous cells will grow into another tumour. But take too much, and you can cause damage, particularly in organs such as the brain.
The technology has been tested on 253 samples as part of the study. The plan is to continue testing to refine the device before trialling it during operations next year.
The pen currently analyses a patch of tissue 1.5mm (0.06in) across, but the researchers have already developed pens that are even more refined and should be able to look at a finer patch of tissue just 0.6mm across. While the pen itself is cheap, the mass spectrometer is expensive and bulky.
This article was originally published in BBC.