Futuristic Surgical Blade Can Taste Cancer

(©Sagel & Kranefeld/Corbis)

They say a man's only as good as his tools, but what would "they" say about the cancer-detecting iKnife?

The smart surgical instrument is the work of Dr Zoltan Takats of Imperial College London. It's essentially an electrosurgical knife attached to a mass spectrometer, so in other words it cuts with the heat of an electric current and then analyses the sucked-away fumes for signs of cancerous cells. See, chemical profile of a biological sample reveals a lot about the state of that tissue -- including the presence of cancer.

According to a release from EurekaAlert, the iKnife recently succeeded in its first tests, diagnosing tissue samples from 91 patients with 100 percent accuracy. In this, it instantly provided data that normally takes up to half an hour to uncover with traditional laboratory tests.

It's just the latest technological advancement in real-time diagnostics health technology -- and another block in the road to autonomous robotic surgeons.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.