Published: Fri, November 10, 2017
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Non-invasive melanoma detection wins Dyson prize

Non-invasive melanoma detection wins Dyson prize

Because cancerous cells have a higher metabolic rate than normal tissue cells, cancerous tissue warms at a faster rate than non-cancerous tissue when the tissue - in this case skin - is cooled. This year's victor of the International James Dyson Award (yes, the same Dyson behind that instant-cult-favorite, is the sKan, a low-priced, noninvasive handheld device for diagnosing melanoma.

The sKan was invented by four Canadian engineering graduates from Ontario's McMaster University.

According to the students, the sKan creates a heat map that shows which cells recover more quickly from thermal shock, which is a known indication of cancer cells.

"It's a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world".

Its creators are 22-year-old Rotimi Fadiya, and 23-year-olds Prateek Mathur, Michael Takla and Shivad Bhavsar.

Current early diagnostic methods for melanoma rely on visual inspections, which are inaccurate, or more advanced method which is time consuming or expensive.

Melanoma, if caught in the earliest stages is entirely treatable, but because it spreads quickly, early detection and immediate treatment is critical.

It works using a series of thermistors, which are cheap and highly accurate temperature sensors, to detect the temperature response of a patch of skin to sudden cooling.

Once the results are digitised, they are displayed as a heat map and temperature difference time plot, together with a statement of findings - showing the presence, or lack of presence, of melanoma.

There are already detection methods using thermal imaging, but they now use thermal imaging cameras that cost upwards of $26,000 (about £20,000, AU$33,000) and so are only likely to be performed at well funded medical establishments. "This is why I have selected it as this year's worldwide victor".

The winning team who created SKan will take away £30,000 to develop the product, while a further £5,000 will be awarded to their university department. Atropos is a 6-axis 3D printing robotic arm that uses continuous fiber composites material, to produce high-performance objects.

Despite being the most common form of medical procedure in the world, 33pc of attempts fail at the first try. The light can be used to easily insert needles and catheters into a patient's skin.

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