Last fall we noted that Purdue and Vanderbilt surgeons had developed a mass spectrometer for the OR. This classic device had been adapted for use in surgery, helping to determine the chemical composition of tissues on-the-fly — which help doctors diagnose and guide management, even while the patient’s still out on the table.
Last week we got a picture of the device — it’s the toaster-like object pictured at right. We also learned that it can be adapted to detect anything from urine abnormalities to explosives.
Today’s MIT Technology Review has a follow-up on the DESI Mass Spectrometer, and its implications for realtime OR decision-making:
Cooks and Caprioli can make a crude map of a tissue biopsy surface by performing a DESI reading at multiple spots, each about 500 micrometers in area. First, a hose sprays the tissue surface with a mist of charged solvent particles. The solvent picks up molecules from the surface, imparting them with an electrical charge, and is then sucked up by another hose into the vacuum chamber of a mass spectrometer, where it is analyzed.
“In the cases we’ve looked at, which include different grades of tumor, as well as tumor and nontumor regions, you have a very characteristic molecular fingerprint,” Cooks says.
During surgery, DESI could be used to create molecular profiles of tumors that would allow doctors to personalize their patients’ post-operative care. Caprioli believes mass spectrometry can play an important role in such personalized medicine. DESI can be used to perform rapid, extensive analyses of not only biopsies but also urine and blood samples and the surface of human skin, and it could detect molecular markers of diseases such as cancer much earlier on.
The article goes on to describe something called mass-spectrometry imaging, a new modality that, until now, hasn’t been tried in open air. It sounds like the DESI technique could eventually be refined to make a test as convenient as ultrasound, but as diagnostic as a pathologist’s slide. Amazing!
More from Purdue… and the NSF…