New Imaging Method for Visualizing Factors Involved in Cancer
13 March 2014
Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Life Sciences at the University of Zurich have developed an imaging technique that is capable of profiling and visualizing a large number of factors involved in cancer development, the university has revealed.
The method, created with the help of colleagues from ETH Zurich and University Hospital Zurich, can simultaneously record 32 biomarkers that provide a comprehensive picture of the tumor's cell profile and the way it impacts surrounding tissue. The researchers hope that in the near future they will be able to increase the number of the biomarkers to more than 100, study coordinator Bernd Bodenmiller said.
This novel imaging technique also makes it possible to collect information about cells' neighborhood partnerships and visualize their direct impact on cellular switch-and-control circuits.
The method employs technology that is already commonplace across hospitals, but features two essential innovations. One of them is the use of pure metal isotopes rather than dyes for visualizing biomarkers, which are labeled with antibodies on very thin tissue sections. When the antibodies are coupled to the isotopes, tiny pieces of tissue are removed with a laser. The metal isotopes of the pieces are then measured with a spectrometer to identify their mass and quantity. This method is more successful than using dyes because it addresses the limited number of colors in the analysis of biological samples, Bodenmiller said.
The second innovation is the use of a new measurement method for information about cells and their control circuits. By ditching the popular qualitative approach, the team managed to determine more accurately which cells are affected and to what extent. The method can also map out the weak points of the control system, facilitating the development of new therapeutic approaches as a result.