Chemical fingerprints of tissue samples taken during operations could soon help surgeons to decide where to make their incisions. Two groups — one based in the United Kingdom, the other in France — are leading efforts to use nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to analyse the metabolites in biopsies. The analyses should reveal whether cells in the sample are healthy and — for the first time — relay that information back to the operating theatre within minutes. In February, a team led by Jeremy Nicholson, head of the department of surgery and cancer at Imperial College London, is planning to install a £300,000 (US$490,000) NMR machine that can study solid samples at a surgical unit at St Mary’s Hospital. It is the first step in a programme that could later see the instruments rolled out to intensive-care units and other wards in hospitals affiliated with Imperial. The machine will be able to rapidly load samples and disposable inserts, allowing the needles used for biopsies to go directly into the spectrometer.
January 12, 2010
Original web page at Nature