New goggles that allow surgeons to visualize cancer cells were first used in surgery recently.

The technology, created at the Washington University School of Medicine, causes cancer cells to glow blue to the surgeon.

The technology uses near-infrared quantum dots to target various types of cancer cells.

The imaging sensor and the see-through display are head-mounted. The sensor is able to detect the glow of the targeted cells using a contrast (indocyanine green) dye.

Currently, surgeons remove both tumor cells and an area of healthy cells around the tumor to maximize the amount of cancer cells removed. As it can be difficult for one to differentiate between cancer and normal cells with the naked eye, this can be tricky. After the surgery, pathologists often recommend a second surgery if cancer cells are found in the outer layer of the presumed healthy cells.

With the new goggles, the need for second surgeries are expected to decrease as surgeons’ abilities to discriminate between cancerous and healthy cells improve. According to a study in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, tumors of 1 mm in diameter and greater are visible with this new technology.

Sources: Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence, Journal of Biomedical Optics