A prototype device developed at Temple University emulates human tactile sensation while providing objective feedback related to the mechanical properties of what it touches. Developed by Chang-Hee Won, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, the sensor could one day be used by doctors in the diagnosis of lumps, lesions, or tumors during physical exams. The device could be used to help determine the size and shape of the lesion or tumor, as well as its elasticity and mobility. The prototype device is used in conjunction with a scoring system to help determine malignancy.
“Once a doctor feels a lesion, lump or tumor, they can use this device to actually characterize the mechanical properties of the irregularity that they have felt,” Won explained in a statement.
From the announcement:
Won said that studies have shown that cancerous lesions and tumors tend to be larger, more irregular in shape or have harder elasticity. “Using the information gleaned by our device, we can determine the probability of this lesion or tumor being either malignant or benign.”
The portable tactile imaging sensor can be attached to any desktop or laptop computer that has a Firewire cable port. Equipped with four LED lights and a camera, the 4.5-inch device has a flexible transparent elastomer cube on the end, into which light is injected.
When the doctor feels an irregularity while giving a patient a physical exam, he or she can place the sensor against the skin where the irregularity was felt. The sensor uses the total internal reflection principle, which keeps the injected light within the elastomer cube unless an intrusion from a lesion or tumor changes the contour of the elastomer’s surface, in which case the light will reflect out of the cube.
The sensor’s camera will then capture the lesion or tumor images caused by the reflected light and they are processed with a novel algorithm developed by the CSNAP Lab to calculate the lesion’s mechanical properties.
The finished device is likely to also be inexpensive; the prototype costs approximately $500.
Image: The tactile imaging sensor emulates human tactile sensation to facilitate diagnosis of lesions and tumors. Courtesy of Preston M. Moretz/Temple University.