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  Cancer detection with Raman spectroscopy

SSIM researchers are producing the world's first Raman chemical analysis chip, a tiny device that can distinguish normal cells from cancerous ones. By placing such a chip on a surgical tool, doctors could remove a tumor and then use the chip to scan the surrounding tissue, to provide real-time feedback about any overlooked cancerous cells, and to give surgeons confidence that they can remove all malignant tissue in a single operation. Present medical procedure calls for a biopsy and histological evaluation, which typically take 12-24 hours and therefore do not provide results until after the operation is completed.

In Raman technology, a laser light of a certain wavelength shines on a sample, which causes molecules in the sample to vibrate and emit a Raman spectrum. From that spectrum, scientists can identify protein, lipid, and other chemical concentrations, as well as distinguish normal cells from cancerous ones. In other words, the technology holds promise as a diagnostic tool for cancer. The SSIM program formed a collaborative relationship with Children's Hospital of Michigan (see the section on CARES), which is allowing SSIM researchers to collect Raman spectroscopy data on the variety of cancerous tissue that transits the hospital's pathology department. The data is yielding the parameters for the design and construction of a Raman microchip/probe system that the researchers anticipate will ultimately convey real-time, imaging and visual information to help surgeons remove all cancerous tissue at once, and thereby greatly improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment. In addition, the Raman microchip will be used for the detection of biological and chemical entities in liquids as an alternate technology to the acoustic wave sensor.