Virtual biopsy device distinguishes between healthy skin and different types of skin lesions and carcinomas. (Credit: Rutgers University)

Using sound vibrations and pulses of near-infrared light, a new “virtual biopsy” device can quickly determine a skin lesion's depth and potential malignancy without using a scalpel. The first-of-its-kind experimental procedure, called vibrational optical coherence tomography (VOCT), creates a 3D map of the legion's width and depth under the skin with a tiny laser diode. It also uses soundwaves to test the lesion's density and stiffness since cancer cells are stiffer than healthy cells. An inch-long speaker applies audible soundwaves against the skin to measure the skin's vibrations and determine whether the lesion is malignant.

A prototype VOCT device, which awaits FDA approval for large-scale testing, can accurately distinguish between healthy skin and different types of skin lesions and carcinomas. The researchers tested the device over six months on four skin excisions and on eight volunteers without skin lesions.

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