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10 November 2017, 05:04 | Melissa Porter
Dyson award-winning device can scan for skin cancer at a fraction of usual cost
The SKan, which was invented by four engineering undergraduates at McMaster University in Canada, works by analysing the length of time it takes for cells suspected of being cancerous to return to normal temperature after they are cooled: because they have a faster metabolic rate, cancerous cells give off more heat.
A team of medical and bioengineering undergraduates from McMaster University, Canada have been chosen as the worldwide James Dyson Award 2017 winners. "It's a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world".
By incorporating an array of accurate and affordable thermistors, the sKan is placed on a part of the skin that shows potential signs of melanoma and then tracks its return to ambient temperature after being cooled.
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. One person dies of Melanoma every hour, and it is one of the deadliest and the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Early detection may mean life or death for those with skin cancer; the estimated 5-year survival rate for skin cancer patients whose illness is detected early is 98 percent. That's largely because diagnosis relies on visual inspection by doctors, meaning melanomas can often be missed until it's too late. This year's victor of the International James Dyson Award (yes, the same Dyson behind that instant-cult-favorite, https://www.allure.com/review/dyson-supersonic-hair-dryer) is the sKan, a low-priced, noninvasive handheld device for diagnosing melanoma.
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. High resolution thermal imaging cameras for that objective can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but the sKan is expected to cost less than AU$1,000 (about US$770). "We are truly humbled and excited to be given this remarkable opportunity", said the sKan team on its win. The team plans to use the $40,000 prize money to reiterate and refine their design to ensure it passes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's standards. Atropos is a 6-axis 3D printing robotic arm that uses continuous fiber composites material, to produce high-performance objects.
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