TechKnow contributor Crystal Dilworth, a molecular neuroscientist, heads to Barnes Jewish Hospital at the Washington University School of Medicine to meet cancer surgeons who are using night vision goggles technology to aid them in the operating theatre.

We often don't have the detail of microscopic assessment during the operation to allow us to do a full removal of the tumour so one of the issues that happens is that many patients end up requiring second surgeries in order to remove additional disease that was not seen at the time of the original surgery.

Dr Julie Margenthaler, cancer surgeon at Barnes Jewish Hospital at the Washington University School of Medicine

According to the National Institutes of Health, 20-25 percent of breast cancer patients will require more than one surgery.

To eliminate these follow-up procedures and reduce patients' anxiety, Washington University's Dr Samuel Achilefu invented high-tech goggles  currently being tested on breast cancer and melanoma patients  in order to guide surgeons to more effectively cut away cancerous tissues.

"The surgeons told me one of their problems is seeing beautiful static images of MRI and CT scans but then when you go into the operating room, you have truly nothing. It's like working in the dark," Achilefu says.

Around 12 patients have undergone the cancer goggles-assisted procedures, which involve being injected with a green ICG dye that reveals cancerous tissue under the UV light that is used in the operating theatre.

Achilefu hopes the goggles will become a routine part of cancer operations. "Sensitivity is the key word," he says. "The goal is to be able to detect very small cells and the current imaging systems are not capable of doing that."

In this episode of TechKnow, we also head to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles with entomologist Phil Torres to visit an excavation site and paleontologists at The Page Museum.

We see how fossils are being studied to learn more about the climate conditions from thousands of years ago to shed light on our global warming present and future. 

The presence of cold water clam fossils in Los Angeles indicates cooler climate in the area 300,000 years ago [Al Jazeera]

Paleontologist Kim Scott has been excavating cold water clams that are over 300,000 years old in a subway shaft. The clams' presence, she says, tells us how the area was much colder then.

We also see how new technology is being used to learn more about older finds such as a fossilised bee that was excavated in 1970. A micro CT scanner shows how the fossilised leafcutter bee that is 40,000 years old is the same as its modern-day counterpart.

Contributor Shini Somara also examines whether DNA from a crime scene could ever be used to create a virtual mugshot.

The Catholic University at Leuven and Penn State have collaborated to examine facial rendering with DNA; working with 600 volunteers they have found a number of combinations in genes and facial features, making this kind of research still just a very preliminary undertaking.

Source: Al Jazeera