Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
While most television shows create fictional scientific advancements, one cool technology seen on CSI and CSI: Miami could have other practical real world applications.
A scientist reported at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, in which redOrbit is attending, that instant fingerprint analysis has the potential to help during brain surgery and chemotherapy.
The “desorption electrospray ionization” mass spectrometer (DESI) has been featured on CSI and CSI: Miami as a tool used to analyze fingerprints. However, the instrument is able to do more than the popular television series implies.
Graham Cooks, Ph.D., a Purdue university professor who led the research team, said he and his students have been able to carry it into grocery stores and use it to detect pesticides and microorganisms on fruits and vegetables.
Also, the scientist said his team was able to identify biomarkers for prostate cancer, and detect melamine, which is a toxic substance that showed up in infant formulas in China in 2008, and in pet food in the U.S. in 2007.
Cooks told reporters at the conference that the really important example DESI is able to be used to try and identify the disease state of human tissue.
There are over 125 types of brain tumors, and they are very difficult to distinguish. In fact, Cooks said even pathologists don’t necessarily agree on every reading. Every year, there are nearly 23,000 new cases of brain tumors, and it causes 13,700 deaths a year.
“The main treatment for a brain tumor is surgery, so you want to get that right so you don’t have to go back again,” Cooks said during the press conference.
The way DESI could help out is by looking at a sample of a brain tissue, and analyzing the information provided on a 3D scale, including mass, intensity and position.
Cooks said DESI looks at individual ions, and then a computer is trained to recognize certain patterns of the tissue sample, then look at unknown tissues and determine whether or not there is a particular tumor to see all density, grade, and type.
When asked if this new utilization of the tool will help lower costs, Cooks said that although new technology generally raises costs, it could ultimately lead to more effective diagnosis and treatments which could actually bring down a medical bill.
He said that DESI would not be replacing medical instruments already in use, but will be complimenting them.