Digital Staining for Histopathology
99.9 % of cancer cases are diagnosed and monitored by histopathological assessment of a biopsy sample. The presence, concentration and distribution of biological molecules (such as nucleic acid, protein or lipids for example) can be determined by selecting a specific combination of chemical stains and fixatives. A commonly used stain in histopathology is hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) which detect nuclei and cytoplasmic components of tissue, respectively (Figure 1). A well-trained histopathologist can diagnose and grade the severity of a tumour based on colour, shape, degree of staining and pattern of a variety of stains. In practice, multiple sections of the fixed tissue sample are cut and different sections are used for each staining procedure. Due to inherent variation between one section and the next, it would be desirable to use the same slide for multiple staining protocols although this is not possible using existing methods.
This invention aims to replace the existing chemical staining technique with automated ‘digital staining’. The novel process uses infra-red light to detect molecules such as proteins, lipids and nucleic acids by their optical absorption properties, generating false colour digital images which can be analysed quantitatively. The invention has already been successfully used to image nuclei and cytoplasm components of tissue, demonstrating that this method could replace H&E chemical staining (Figure 2). In addition, an entire image can be acquired in 100 psec, which is considerably quicker than the H&E staining process. 0.5
The invention provides a quantitative result which could aid diagnosis and reduce the handson time of a trained histopathologist as well as reduce intra-histologist variation in diagnosis. This method also offers the opportunity to develop a variety of digital staining procedures and has the potential to be significantly cheaper than existing chemical staining techniques since it is label-free. Furthermore, the method does not destroy the biological sample and therefore the same slide could be analysed by multiple digital staining protocols. In addition, the infrared radiation is intrinsically harmless to the user, unlike chemical stains which can be toxic.
A patent has been filed (WO/2009/050437) and owner is seeking partners for further development and licensing.
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