islamabad - The black spots on old banana peels may unlock a faster, easier diagnosis of human skin cancer, boosting survival chances, scientists revealed.

When bananas ripen, their skin is covered in small, round black spots caused by an enzyme known as tyrosinase. The same enzyme is present in human skin, and in greater quantities in people suffering from melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The black spots on bananas are caused by an enzyme called tyrosinase.

The enzyme is also present in human skin and in greater quantities in people suffering from melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer. Scientists in Switzerland built a cancer scanner, which they tested and refined on banana peels before using on humans

A team of scientists used this observed commonality to build a cancer scanner, which they then refined and tested at length on banana peels before moving on to human tissue.

First, researchers at the Laboratory of Physical and Analytical Electrochemistry in Switzerland concluded that the enzyme is a reliable marker of melanoma growth.

In the earliest stage 1 of cancer, the enzyme is not very apparent, becoming widespread and evenly distributed in stage 2, and unevenly distributed in stage 3 - by which time the cancer has started spreading to other parts of the body.

The earlier the cancer is detected, the greater the chances of survival. According to the American Cancer Society, people have a 10-year survival rate of 95 per cent if the melanoma is detected in stage 1 - falling to 43 per cent by mid-stage 3. The team developed a scanner and tested it on banana peel spots - which are roughly the same size as melanoma spots on human skin.

They found that in the early stages of melanoma, the enzyme was not very apparent in the skin.

However as the cancer progressed, and reached stage 3, by which time it had started spreading to other parts of the body, the enzyme was more widespread

‘By working with fruit, we were able to develop and test a diagnostic method before trying it on human biopsies,’ team leader Hubert Girault said in a statement.

The scanner has eight flexible microelectrodes, spaced like comb teeth, that pass over the skin to measure the quantity and distribution of tyrosinase.

‘This system could obviate the need for invasive tests like biopsies,’ the team said.

Girault believes the scanner could be used one day to destroy tumours, hopefully rendering biopsies and even chemotherapy unnecessary.

‘Our initial laboratory tests showed us that our device could be used to destroy the cells,’ he said.

Smart lens could predict risk of

glaucoma progression

A new study reveals how a “smart” contact lens can help identify which patients with glaucoma - a leading cause of blindness - are most likely to experience disease progression.

Researchers say the smart lens could help doctors identify which glaucoma patients are at high risk for disease progression.

Dr C Gustavo De Moraes, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York, and colleagues revealed the success of the novel technology.

Glaucoma is a term for a group of conditions characterized by damage to the eye’s optic nerve, which can lead to vision loss.

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than 3 million Americans have glaucoma, and around 120,000 people are blind from the disease. Worldwide, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness.

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form, accounting for around 90% of all cases. This is where the drainage canals of the eye become blocked over time, causing a rise in eye pressure that damages the optic nerve.

Currently, disease progression among patients with glaucoma is monitored through comprehensive routine eye examinations, in which an eye doctor will assess the patient’s eye pressure.

However, Dr. De Moraes and colleagues note that such tests can only provide snapshot information from a single point in time. Additionally, eye pressure is most likely to rise at night, and current tests are impractical to perform at this time.

But there may be a solution to this problem: a contact lens with a built-in sensor that can monitor eye pressure 24 hours a day.

For their study, the researchers tested the contact lens - called Sensimed Triggerfish - on 40 patients aged 40-89 who were undergoing treatment for open-angle glaucoma.

Over 2 years, each patient underwent at least eight comprehensive eye exams, which were used to determine glaucoma progression. At the end of the 2 years, 20 of the patients were identified as having slow disease progression, while the remaining 20 had fast disease progression.

In the study, the patients were required to wear the smart lens for 24 hours, including during sleep.

The lens is made of silicone and is embedded with a micro-sensor that picks up on any changes in lens curvature - an indicator of eye pressure.

When the curve changes, an electric signal is sent to a wireless antenna that is placed around the eye, and the antenna sends this information to a portable recorder worn by the patient. This data is then sent to the patient’s doctor via Bluetooth.

The researchers found that the patients who had the highest peaks in lens curvature at nighttime and who had an overall greater number of peaks in signal transfer were the ones who experienced faster glaucoma progression. These findings, the team says, indicate that the smart lens may be an effective tool in helping doctors to identify which glaucoma patients are at greatest risk for disease progression.