The device was developed by a team of students from the McMaster University as part of a class project during their final year. Recently, the work of Michael Tekla, Rotimi Fadiya, Prateek Mathur, and Shivad Bhavsar, now all graduates of the university’s Electrical and Biomedical Engineering program, bagged the James Dyson Award. With that recognition comes the prize money of $50,000 to support the futher development of the sKan.
Current methods of diagnosing skin cancer are based on visual inspection. Doctors obtain qualitative information by based on skin spots they see on a patient’s skin. The information helps doctors decide which patients are candidates for a biopsy.
The sKan offers an improved method of recognizing melanoma. The device creates a thermal map of the region of the skin being inspected. The sKan then provides a quantitative measurement for diagnosing skin cancer.
Mathur said he and his colleagues were inspired to create the sKan when they realized that the use of technology in diagnosing skin cancer had not developed at the same pace as it had in other fields of medicine.
“We found research that used the thermal properties of cancerous skin tissue as a means of detecting melanoma,” he said in an interview with McMaster Daily News. “However, this was done using expensive lab equipment. We set out to apply the research and invent a way of performing the same assessment using a more cost-effective solution.”
The team worked closely with Hubert deBruin, co-Director, Integrated Biomedical Engineering & Health Sciences (iBiomed) program, Michael Noseworthy, director, School of Biomedical Engineering and Raimond
“They provided guidance in the design, made us aware of possible sources of error and gave suggestions when we came across challenges,” said Tekla. Dr. Noseworthy was also kind to offer us his lab space and equipment for us to complete some preliminary calibration tables.”
The sKan operates on the concept that after when human skin is cooled, cancerous lesions warm up faster than normal skin. This occurs because cancerous cells grow and divide faster than normal cells.
Cancerous skin makes new blood vessels grow towards and inside it to supply the skin with energy.
There have been other earlier researches that used infrared cameras to detect this. But those devices coudl cost tens to thousands of dollars.
By comparison, the device developed by the McMaster researchers ins relatively cheaper.
“The pieces that we’re using you can get for like $1 apiece,” Fadiya, told CBC News recently.
The device is made up of a transducer, a conditioning circuit, an analog-to-digital converter, and a processor, according to the Dyson Foundation Web site.
The transducer is placed on the region of skin as the skin begins to warm up after being cooled.
As the temperatures of each thermistor in the transducer changes, the voltage through the circuit changes. A signal is sent to a computer which works out time synchronous averaging, temperature variations and spatial validation.
The results are displayed on a heat map and a temperature-time plot, paired with a statement of the findings.
The team now hopes to develop their device until it receives medical approval as a clinical tool that would assist doctors with their diagnosis. The team also believe the sKin could one day become a household device that would allow individuals to easily conduct melanoma checks in the comfort of their homes.
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