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Temple U technology may assist doctors with early identification of tumors

By David Schwartz
Published: January 25th, 2012

A key part of a medical patient’s physical examination is performed through touch, but a doctor can only glean so much information from what he feels. That’s why Temple University researchers have created a prototype device that will not only emulate human tactile sensation, but quantify it as well. The tactile imaging sensor was developed by Chang-Hee Won, PhD, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Temple.

“The human hands have this amazing ability to touch something and tell if it’s soft or hard, if it’s wet, or even its temperature,” says Won, who is also director of the Control, Sensor, Network, and Perception Laboratory in Temple’s College of Engineering. “We’re trying to emulate this tactile sensation with a device that will actually quantify this by giving us the mechanical properties of what we are feeling.” The tactile imaging sensor could aid doctors when they feel lesions, lumps, or tumors while conducting physical exams by detecting the size and shape of the lesion or tumor, as well as its elasticity and mobility.

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 then captures 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. In addition to being portable and noninvasive, the devise also is inexpensive, with the prototype costing approximately $500.

Source:  Science Daily

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