September 20, 2021

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New technology from Tel Aviv University could revolutionize skin cancer diagnosis

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For the first time, melanoma can be diagnosed automatically and in real time. In a lab Professor Abraham Katzir, Of Raymond and Beverly Sackler College of Exact Sciences at Tel Aviv University, developed an innovative optical technique that can distinguish between different types of cancer – skin cancer, which is considered extremely lethal. The diagnosis is quick, non-invasive and painless. This technology has been successfully tested on nearly a hundred patients in a large hospital in Israel. The results are in Journal of Medical Physics Chest.

According to Professor Katzir, early diagnosis can save lives in the case of skin cancer. If a suspicious lesion is found on the skin during a routine examination, it is removed in a minor surgery and sent to the laboratory for examination. The pathologist will diagnose the lesion and determine if it is a melanoma. In most cases where melanoma is detected early, when it is still on the surface of the skin and is less than 1 millimeter thick, and it is removed, the patient recovers. Late diagnosis, when melanoma is more than one millimeter thick, greatly reduces the chance of treatment and is life threatening.

“When developing the technology, we were guided by the idea that different materials in the visible range have different colors, but are not characteristic of each substance. On the other hand, in the infrared range, different materials have some kind of different ‘colors’ which depend on the chemical composition of the substance in question. Professor Katzir says. “So we discovered that with the help of devices that can detect these” colors “, healthy skin and both benign and malignant lesions will have different” colors “that will enable us to recognize skin cancer.”

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Professor Katzir’s research group has developed special optical fibers that are transparent in the infrared range. In cooperation with physicists Professor Joseph Reichlin from Ariel University, Dr. Max Platkov of the Center for Nuclear Research in the Negev and Svetlana Basov of Professor Katzir’s group, the group has developed a system based on these fibers that is suitable for human skin assessment requirements. The researchers attached one end of the fiber to a device that measured the “colors” in the infrared spectrum and gently touched a wound on the patient’s skin with the other end for a few seconds. The fibers made it possible to examine the “color” of the lesion immediately.

According to Professor Katzir, clinical trials of suspicious lesions have been carried out in about one hundred patients. With the new system, physicists took measurements of the “color” of each lesion before removing it and sending it to a pathology lab. The researchers showed that all lesions that pathologists identified for a specific type, such as melanoma, had a distinct “color” in the infrared range. Each pest of a different species was a different “color”.

Professor Katzir says: “This technology gives us a type of ‘fingerprint’ that allows a clear diagnosis of different lesions by measuring their distinctive“ colors. ”In this way, the lesions can be diagnosed visually non-invasively and the doctor and patient receive the results automatically and without further delay. This cannot be done. Comparing it to the usual test that requires surgery and a lengthy pathology. ” After the study is successful, the researchers plan to verify the evaluation method in hundreds of patients.

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In conclusion, Professor Katzir says: “Melanoma is a life threatening cancer, so it is very important to diagnose it at an early stage when it is still superficial. With the innovative system, every dermatologist will be able to automatically determine the nature of a suspicious lesion and, above all, what If it is melanoma. This system has the potential to dramatically change the prognosis and treatment of skin cancers, and possibly other types of cancer as well. The challenge is to bring this technology, which is still very expensive, to be used in every hospital or clinic. “