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These High-Tech Surgery Goggles Can Spot Glowing Cancer Cells

Julie Margenthaler (left), a Washington University breast surgeon at the Siteman Cancer Center, performs an operation on Feb. 10 to remove a lymph node on a patient using a type of visual device that can see a fluorescent compound injected into the tissue, which gives a more accurate view of potential tumors
Julie Margenthaler (left), a Washington University breast surgeon at the Siteman Cancer Center, performs an operation on Feb. 10 to remove a lymph node on a patient using a type of visual device that can see a fluorescent compound injected into the tissue, which gives a more accurate view of potential tumorsPhotograph by Christian Gooden

When surgeons remove a tumor, the search for every last cancer cell is critical. The diseased tissue can be difficult to distinguish from the healthy.

Now researchers have developed high-tech goggles that allow doctors to see tumors glowing under infrared light. “As soon as they open the body, they will see the cancer tissue light up,” says Samuel Achilefu, the brains behind the goggles and a professor of radiology, biomedical engineering, biochemistry, and molecular biophysics at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s clear what they need to take out.”