New technique paints tissue samples with light

A new advanced imaging technique developed by an Indian-origin scientist that uses infrared light, instead of chemical stains, to scan tissue samples can enable fast and broad diagnostic assessments.

PTI| Last Updated: Mar 25, 2015, 16:31 PM IST

New York: A new advanced imaging technique developed by an Indian-origin scientist that uses infrared light, instead of chemical stains, to scan tissue samples can enable fast and broad diagnostic assessments.

Using a combination of advanced microscope imaging and computer analysis, the new technique can give pathologists and researchers precise information without using chemical stains or dyes.

The study was led by Rohit Bhargava, University of Illinois professor of bioengineering and member of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

"Any sample can be analysed for desired stains without material cost, time or effort, while leaving precious tissue pristine for downstream analyses," Bhargava said.

To study tissue samples, doctors and researchers use stains or dyes that stick to the particular structure or molecule they are looking for.

Staining can be a long and exacting process, and the added chemicals can damage cells. Doctors also have to choose which things to test for, because it's not always possible to obtain multiple samples for multiple stains from one biopsy.

The new, advanced infrared imaging technique uses no chemical stains, instead scanning the sample with infrared light to directly measure the chemical composition of the cells.

The computer then translates spectral information from the microscope into chemical stain patterns, without applying dyes to the cells.

"One of the bottlenecks in automated pathology is the extensive processing that must be applied to stained images to correct for staining artifacts and inconsistencies," said David Mayerich, first author of the study.

"The ability to apply stains uniformly across multiple samples could make these initial image processing steps significantly easier and more robust," said Mayerich, who was a post-doctoral fellow at the Beckman Institute at the time of the study and now is a professor at the University of Houston.

The researchers reproduced a wide array of molecular stains by computationally isolating the spectra of specific molecules.

This allows the user to simply tune to a required stain, for as many different stains as are necessary - all without damaging the original tissue sample, which can then be used for other tests.

The research is published in the journal Technology.