When a surgeon has a hard time determining the edges of a cancerous tumor, this can be a real problem: if too little is cut, cancer cells are left behind, when too much is taken away, the patient’s life is in immediate danger. Enter the iKnife, a revolutionary invention from London’s Imperial College scientists.

Under the direct supervision of Hungarian chemist Zoltan Takats, researchers have come up with an intelligent surgical device that can detect cancerous tissue in seconds.

iKnife: Intelligent Surgical Device Sniffs Out Cancer Cells

So what is the iKinife? It is basically an efficient merging of a mass spectrometer used for chemical analysis and an electrosurgical knife that uses heat to cut through tissue. The new device is instantly sampling smoke resulting from the heat cutting procedure to sniff out cancerous cells.

The first human studies were made on 91 tissue samples from various patients and the results were more than encouraging: 100% accuracy on detecting cancer cells.

The procedure of removed tissue analysis is not new but it was done in half an hour or more, while the patient was still under general anesthetic. The tests would be sent to a lab which provides feedback on the cells’ cancerous nature. The iKnife can do this in less than 3 seconds.

The intelligent surgical knife in fact analyzes the biological information from the burning tissue and instantly compares it with a database of biological fingerprints taken from various tumors as well as healthy tissue. But this is not everything the iKnife can do, as it can also identify inadequate blood supply and bacteria presence in tissue samples.

The new device is about to enter clinical trials. According to the inventor, Zoltan Takats, the trial will involve 1,000 to 1,500 patients with various types of cancers. The process may take between 2 to 3 years. Only after clinical trials are completed successfully, the product will be submitted to regulatory approval and will enter mass production.

The experimental version has cost about $300,000 but the researchers ensure us the price will significantly decrease while the iKnife enters commercial production.

[Image via Los Angeles Times]