iKnife Offers Real-time Differentiation Between Healthy and Cancerous Tissue


A team of researchers from Imperial College London led by Dr. Zoltán Takáts have developed a new method for diagnosing cancerous tissue. The new device christened intelligent knife or iKnife readily differentiates between healthy and cancerous tissues to reduce the risk of removing healthy tissue portion along with the malignant ones.

The new device is the first of its kind to have successfully made use of mass spectrometry to provide real time information on biological samples. The iKnife is a small device attached to the end of an electrosurgical knife used by surgeons to cut through the tissues. The electrosurgical knife generates an electric current and singes the tissue being cut, producing smoke during the process. The iKnife device collects the smoke generated and passes it on to a mass spectrometer. The mass spectrometer analyses the sample and compares the tissue spectra with an extensive database containing more than 3000 lipid profiles of healthy and tumor cells to identify cancerous tissue among healthy cells.

The device has performed extraordinarily well during tests with a low rate of false positives and false negatives at 3.5 and 2.3 percent respectively. It also allows the researchers to distinguish between different tumor types. iKnife will be a valuable diagnostic tool that enables diagnosis in real time without requiring any modification of tissue and also eliminates the risks associated with other visualization methods involving fluorescent dyes. The research has been published in Science Translational Medicine.

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