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Pen-sized Mass Spectrometer Identifies Cancer During Surgeries

In an effort to reduce the risk of re-operation in surgeries for the removal of cancerous tissue, scientists have been developing tools to bring fast and accurate tissue analysis directly to the operating room. A few weeks ago, our Video of the Week featured the work of an MIT research team that’s built a portable multiphoton microscope that can be employed during surgery with the same goal.

Researchers at the University of Texas have now developed a pen-shaped device that is connected to a mass spectrometer that can comfortably reside in an operating suite. The MasSpec Pen, when pressed against the tissue in question, releases a droplet of water that collects some elements of the contacted tissue, and is then sucked back into the device for analysis. The results are produced in about 10 seconds. Experiments to date have yielded a 96% accuracy rate. Further clinical trials are expected to begin in 2018.