Medicine

Mac students win worldwide prize for cancer-detecting devices

Mac students win worldwide prize for cancer-detecting devices

Early diagnostic methods for melanoma rely heavily on visual inspections, which can be inaccurate.

By incorporating an array of accurate and low-priced thermistors, the sKan is placed on a part of the skin that shows potential signs of melanoma and then tracks its return to ambient temperature after being cooled.

This new device is already getting worldwide recognition for its groundbreaking research, but these students aren't the first Canadians to win the esteemed award.

Because cancerous cells have a higher metabolic rate than normal tissue cells, cancerous tissue warms at a faster rate than non-cancerous tissue when the tissue - in this case skin - is cooled.

Globally, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and while you might assume that its appearance on the outside of the body makes it easy to spot, it still results in tens of thousands of deaths every year.

A team of four undergraduates from Canada have been given £30,000 to make their product a reality, while two runners-up have also been awarded £5,000 each.

sKan uses this property to identify potential cancers.

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According to the students, the sKan creates a heat map that shows which cells recover more quickly from thermal shock, which is a known indication of cancer cells.

"By using widely available and cheap components, the sKan allows for melanoma skin cancer detection to be readily accessible to the many", says James Dyson.

Dyson company founder James Dyson said the sKan received the award because it is "a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world". As the victor of this prestigious award, sKan, which was created by a group of four inspiring engineering undergrads at Ontario's McMaster University, will receive $40,000 to further develop their tool, seek FDA approval, and ultimately bring the tool into the world for use.

There are already detection methods using thermal imaging, but they now use thermal imaging cameras that cost upwards of $26,000 (about £20,000, AU$33,000) and so are only likely to be performed at well funded medical establishments.

The team plans to use the funds to build a new prototype that can be used in pre-clinical testing. "The prize money will help us to continue developing a medical device that can saves people's lives".

"We are truly humbled and excited to be given this remarkable opportunity", they said.

Zimmer's Twistlight uses LED lights in a diagnostically relevant way to guide a needle for vein puncture clearly into the tissue.


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