Research Highlights

Nature 461, 451 (24 September 2009) | doi:10.1038/461451d; Published online 23 September 2009

Analytical chemistry: Evaporating flesh

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. doi:10.1002/anie.200902546 (2009)

Cancer surgeons cutting out tumours in the operating theatre can find it hard to spot the difference between malignant and healthy tissue. But Hungarian scientists say it should be possible to identify tissue types in real time during surgery, using a mass spectrometer to analyse the ions sprayed up by a standard surgical electrode as its electric current evaporates living flesh.

Zoltán Takáts at Semmelweis University, Budapest, and his colleagues discovered that different tissues yield characteristic sets of gaseous molecular ions as they are being dissected — and that the ions can be pumped to a mass spectrometer and analysed in less than a second to distinguish various grades of cancerous tissue.

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