ILLINOIS, NETRALNEWS.COM - Surgeons can now detect cancer cells hidden in the body using a new camera inspired by the morpho butterflies.
The small device developed by researchers in Illinois uses infrared signals to detect dye-lined tumors, the same way that morpho butterflies use infrared to move around in the rainforests.
The small camera is connected to a pair of glasses worn by the surgeon. The camera can detect very small signals that can indicate whether a tumor is still present after surgery. This tool has also been successfully tested in patients with breast cancer, after initial trials in mice. Resaerchers now plan to explore its use in patients with esophageal cancer.
"With the insect's visual system, we can overcome the serious problems that exist with current cancer surgery methods, and ensure no cancer cells are left behind during surgery," said computer engineering professor Viktor Gruev of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as quoted by Daily Mail.
Experts say this technology is more sensitive, more accurate, much smaller in size, and cheaper than current FDA-approved instruments used to detect tumors.
Surgeons have generally relied on vision and touch to find cancer tissues during surgery, but in thousands of cases, undetected tumors could be fatal. Despite decades of attempts to locate hidden tumors, many cases still escape detection.
The researchers compared how well doctors can identify lymph nodes in breast cancer patients by looking for the color green with the eyes of this technology, and then looking for infrared signals using the butterfly camera.
"Our technology is much faster, as one of the advantages of this technology the is deeper imaging in cell tissues. Sometimes when they are looking for a green color, they look for a while because the node is below the surface. With fluorescence, you can see through the skin or tissue and identify the tumor more quickly," Gruev said.
To note, morpho butterflies are commonly found in rain forests, especially in South and Central America and Mexico. The butterflies are named as morpho butterflies due to their colorful wings that make them appear to morph when they are flying.
These butterflies are only active during the day, and their vision have evolved to make them very sensitive to the sun's infrared light, thus allowing them to see at longer distances.