Friday, February 01, 2008

Virtual Biopsy Detects Skin Cancer Quickly, Painlessly

news you may not knowIt's Really Quite Simple...
(Image courtesy of Queensland University of Technology)

Welcome to the new reality. Or, the new virtual reality. Or, to something other than what you knew just yesterday.

The wave of all-things-virtual has once again knocked on diagnostic medicine's door. Previous advances brought about the Virtual Colonoscopy, in which x-ray imaging is used in lieu of the more invasive traditional method. Also, broadband connections and webcam technology allow patients in remote areas to have a "doctor's visit" with a specialist in New York.

Now, a researcher at Queensland University of Technology's (QUT) School of Physical and Chemical Sciences has introduced a virtual biopsy to detect skin cancer. It makes sense this breakthrough would come from down under, as Australia is the skin cancer capital of the world.

Jye Smith developed a technique that relies on bioimpedance spectroscopy. This technique measures the flow of electrical currents through the body's tissues. Differences can be used to assess the amount of lean and fat body tissue. Or, as developed by Mr. Smith, to detect cancerous tissue within the body.

"It offers the possibility of a simple device that can be run over the surface of the skin or internal organ that can quickly, cheaply and accurately record changes in cellular structure that point to cancerous changes," said Mr. Smith. "By running the currents through a surface it can identify the boundaries of a lesion."

The technique identifies changes within the cells, thus allowing the type of cancer to be determined. Best of all, the procedure is non-invasive. Traditional techniques involve removing a piece of the suspect tissue and forwarding it for lab analysis.

"The beauty of this technique is that the patient doesn't need an anaesthetic, the data is immediate, and it has the potential to be as accurate as more time-consuming, expensive techniques," said Mr. Smith.

Welcome to the virtual world. Now, if they could only develop virtual dentistry...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about bioimpedance, see this from Wikipedia.


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