We asked Duke University to reveal its most exciting new innovations. Here are two ideas the school shared with us.
A Flashlight That Diagnoses Cancer
The problem: Many cancer diagnoses are invasive and even dangerous. Biopsies that require tissue samples can be disfiguring and life-altering.
The idea: Imagine a wand that shines light onto cells to see if they are not cancerous, but pre-cancerous. Instead of cutting out the cells and having them sent to the lab to be checked, Duke's magic wand uses short bursts of light to illuminate the core of a cell. The cell nuclei, if they are pre-cancerous, are misshapen and larger than healthy cell nuclei. The wand can detect that different shape without using tissue-removal, dyes or contrast agents.
The potential: Four out of five cancers start in the epithelium, the cells that line our organs and glands. Fiber-optic probes that act as "cancer flashlights" could provide biopsy-type information to help physicians spot suspicious sites. "This approach could be the future of diagnosing [cancers] of the colon," said Dr. Christopher Mantyh, a surgeon at Duke University Medical Center and member of the research team.