3. This pen can diagnose cancer in tissue in secondsScientists and engineers in Texas have created a pen-like device that can accurately recognize cancer in tissues during surgery.
A team at the University of Texas at Austin has invented a tool used during surgeries that can give results in about 10 seconds, which is 150 times faster than current technology, according to the researchers. The device, known as the MasSpec Pen, is a handheld instrument that can give surgeons precise diagnostic information about which tissues should be cut or saved to help improve treatment and reduce the likeliness of cancer returning.
The MasSpec Pen was tested on tissues removed from 253 human cancer patients. It took about 10 seconds for a diagnosis to occur and was shown to be more than 96% accurate. The device could also detect cancer is marginal regions in normal and cancerous tissues the had a mixed cellular composition.
The device works by seeking out metabolites. Metabolites are small molecules that living cells produce, regardless of if they’re healthy or cancerous. Each cancer type makes a unique set of metabolites and other biomarkers that tend to be like fingerprints.
Molecular fingerprints picked up by the MasSpec Pen are evaluated by statistical classier software that is trained on a database of similar fingerprints that Eberlin collected from 253 normal and cancerous tissue samples. When the MasSpec Pen finished its analysis, “Normal” or “Cancer” appear on a computer screen automatically. Other types of cancer could also show a subtype.
The device is handheld, making it easy for physicians and surgeons to operate. All they have to do is hold the pen against a patient’s tissue, which will trigger an automated analysis using a foot pedal. After 10 seconds, the results will appear. During the process, the pen puts a drop of water on a tissue that attracts small molecules into the water. The device brings the water sample into a mass spectrometer instrument that can detect molecular fingerprints.