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‘Virtual biopsy’ device to help detect skin tumours

New York: 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.

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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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