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‘Virtual biopsy’ device to help detect skin tumours

Researchers have developed a “virtual biopsy” device that can distinguish between healthy skin and different types of skin lesions and carcinomas.

The ability to analyse a skin tumour non-invasively could
make biopsies much less risky and distressing to patients, according the study
published in the journal Skin Research and Technology.

To develop the device that can quickly determine a skin
lesion’s depth and potential malignancy without using a scalpel, the
researchers used sound vibrations and pulses of near-infrared light.

“This procedure can be completed in 15 minutes with no
discomfort to the patient, who feels no sensation from the light or the nearly
inaudible sound. It’s a significant improvement over surgical biopsies, which
are expensive and time consuming,” said study lead author Frederick Silver,
Professor at Rutgers University in the US.

The experimental procedure, called vibrational optical
coherence tomography (VOCT), creates a 3D map of the legion’s width and depth
under the skin with a tiny laser diode, said the study.

It also uses sound waves to test the lesion’s density and
stiffness since cancer cells are stiffer than healthy cells. An inch-long
speaker applies audible sound waves against the skin to measure vibrations and
determine whether the lesion is malignant. For the findings, the research team
tested the device over six months on four skin excisions and on eight
volunteers without skin lesions.

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