The smell of burnt flesh rises in the operating theatre and the smoke from vaporised tissue is sucked away. But these fumes are diverted into a machine that tells the surgeon exactly what is being cut into, guiding the rest of the operation. This is “smart surgery“, and it holds the potential to transform medicine. This is the first NMR spectrometer in the world which does the work of a histologist.who identifies the tissue being cut/taken out.
The process tends to take about 40 minutes, and is subject to human error and variability. To standardise and speed up tissue identification, Jeremy Nicholson and his colleagues at Imperial College London have brought nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy – a chemistry-lab staple – into St Mary’s Hospital in London.