Rewriting Life

Smart Needle

A medical probe under development at NASA promises to identify cancerous tumors without requiring surgical biopsies. San Jose, CA-based BioLuminate recently obtained a license from NASA to produce a disposable needle that makes real-time measurements of breast tissue to distinguish potentially cancerous masses. Sensors in the tip of the instrument register data such as tissue density, oxygen levels and density of blood vessels. The probe has the potential to significantly reduce the more than 16,000 unnecessary surgical breast biopsies performed weekly in the United States. The smart needle should be available for breast cancer detection in about three years. From there, the technology may be applied to identify prostate, colon, cervical and brain tumors.

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