* Invention could help identify cancerous tissue on the spot
* Combines mass spectrometry and electrosurgery
* Waters Corp has acquired technology
By Krisztina Than
BUDAPEST, July 31 Hungarian scientists are
aiming for the first prototype of a new device in two years that
will help surgeons distinguish between healthy tissue and
tumours in a split-second as they operate and remove cancerous
Hungarian chemist Zoltan Takats started to work on the
technology in 2002 in the United States and from 2004 onwards at
the Budapest Semmelweis Medical University in cooperation with
the Imperial College London, where he works now.
Last week, U.S.-based Waters Corporation acquired
the technology - called Rapid Evaporative Ionization Mass
Spectrometry (REIMS) - from Hungarian start-up firm MediMass
Waters said in a July 22 statement on its website that the
technology could be used to create the "Intelligent Knife" or
"iKnife," a device "in the conceptual stages of development that
could potentially be used for real-time diagnostics in surgery".
Takats told Reuters he hoped the acquisition would give the
project a new momentum, leading to a device prototype within two
years and licensing a couple of years after that.
"What we have developed is a device that can tell a surgeon
the kind of tissue on which he is operating," Takats said.
The invention combines two existing technologies: mass
spectrometry, which is a chemical analytical method, and
"These two are very, very far from each other, and no one
has ever thought that these two could be combined," Takats said.
The technology relies on a modification of the
electrosurgical knife, which sends up molecules in the form of
smoke as surgeons operate and which Takats and his colleagues
direct to the mass spectrometer for testing.
This allows analysis of the sample tissue on the spot in
less than a second. Under normal circumstances, surgeons need to
send off samples to a laboratory for analysis, and it takes
about an hour in Hungary to get the result, Takats said.
"At the moment we are able to produce not only the mass
spectrometry information within about half a second, but also
analyse it and identify the kind of tumour on which the surgeon
is operating," Takats said. "This whole process can be done in
0.7 second at the moment."
MediMass Chief Executive Akos Tallos declined to say how
much Waters had paid for the assets, which include patent
applications, software, databases and REIMS expertise.
"This transaction will ... give a fresh boost to creating
the prototype of the device and then its licensing afterwards,"
(editing by Jane Baird)