IBM scientists are partnering with pathologists in Zurich, Switzerland to help unravel tumors and to assist in personalized treatment strategies.
Tissue staining is widely used in pathology to detect disease markers in
a patient's sample. More specifically, a particular disease marker is
bound with an antibody, which is then chemically colored or stained on
the tissue. The intensity of the color classifies and determines the
extent of a disease.
Tissue staining is a tedious process with many chemical steps analogous
to developing photographs, whereby too much chemical solution or long
exposures can overdevelop the sample or photo. This, in addition to tissue sample sizes, which can be as small as a pinhead, can create significant challenges for even the most seasoned pathologists.
|IBM's Microfluidic Probe|
Several years ago IBM scientists in Zurich, who have decades of experience working with silicon for microelectronics, thought about how they could apply their knowledge of working with tiny structures to this pathology challenge.
The result is what IBM scientists call a microfludic probe, which resembles the nib of a fountain pen.
How does it work?
|Dr. Alex Soltermann|
eight-millimeter-wide, diamond-shaped probe injects very small volumes
of chemical compounds known as reagents on the tissue surface and then continuously aspirates the
reagents to prevent spreading and accumulation. This approach is used to
deliver and retrieve reagents locally in selected areas of a tissue
section with pinpoint accuracy. This local interaction with the tissue
sample helps in
mapping the heterogeneity in the tissue.
determined to obtain as much accurate information as possible
from markedly small biopsy samples,” said Dr. Alex Soltermann, a
specializing in lung cancer at the Institute for Surgical Pathology of
He adds, “We hope to introduce new technologies, such as the
probe, into the clinical molecular pathology diagnostic framework to
enable a range
of investigations, which were previously thought to be infeasible. If we
are successful, the tool will be a driver for personalized medicine,
and translate into increased
confidence in diagnosis and better detection of predictive cancer
“For about a year we have been testing the probe in our lab, and initial results are
very encouraging – we are now developing the technology in the context of important
aspects in pathology,” said Dr. Govind Kaigala, a scientist at IBM Research - Zurich.
“Over the next several months, we will install a prototype device at the hospital and
work alongside pathologists.
IBM scientists aspire to eventually partner with a medical equipment manufacturer to
license the technology and bring it to market as a tool to assist pathologists in making challenging and critical decisions.
Labels: cancer treatment, healthcare, microfluidic probe, zurich