NASA officials announced today the development of an innovative diagnostic device to detect breast cancer by a Silicon Valley start-up company. San Jose-based BioLuminate is currently developing a commercial version of "Smart Surgical Probe," which was originally developed at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

The probe is described as a small disposable needle with multiple sensors. It has the potential to enable physicians to diagnose tumors without surgery, resulting in a decrease of breast biopsies that women may have to undergo annually.

Robert Mah, the NASA Ames scientist who invented the device, said, "The instrument may allow health care providers to make expert, accurate diagnoses as well as to suggest proper, individualized treatment even in remote areas."

According to BioLuminate Chief Executive Officer Richard Hular, 18,000 surgical breast biopsies are performed in the United States each week.

He added, "By taking the NASA Ames Smart Probe and developing it further, BioLuminate hopes to be able to produce a real time measurement instrument that will reduce the need for surgery."

"If we are successful, the probe will significantly improve women's health care, and could potentially reduce annual health care costs."

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