3D tissue images to help treat cancer

Posted on April 25, 2012

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3D tissue images to help treat cancer

Scientists at the University of Leeds in the UK, claim that three-dimensional images of tissue samples could help spot cancer early. The team have created a technique that will create hi-resolution 3D images in full colour of the tissue.

The image will be rotatable in order to allow experts to see the tissue from every angle, and make diagnosis quicker. No more spending weeks watching TV and playing games on Party Poker as you wait. Cancer Research UK is pleased, because the technology could help researchers understand how cancer grows and spreads, which will ultimately help treat it.

The findings have been published in the American Journal of Pathology.

Dr Derek Magee spoke to the BBC about the study. He told of the importance of the three dimensions when assessing, and how superior it is to two dimensions. “If you take a blood vessel, which is a branching network of tubes, and you take a slice of it, the 2D image that you get is an ellipse,” he explained.

“This tells you absolutely nothing about the connectivity, or the specific branching, of that particular network of blood vessels, which could be particularly important for cancer specialists.”

Tissue must be cut with a machine called microtome into hundreds of thin slices. Each one is placed onto 1mm thick glass and processed into a digital scanner, where they can create 2D impressions of the tissue. The new technology then generates a 3D image that researchers are able to view from all angles.

Dr Magee is optimistic about the effect this can have on cancer diagnosis.

“This may help spot tumours that could be missed by conventional approaches. Also if there is a major blood vessel fairly nearby, it will be possible to see if a tumour has reached it.”

Tumours are complex and made of “cancerous and healthy cells, including blood vessels, immune cells and other ‘normal’ cells.” Dr Kat Arney of Cancer Research said.

So this type of work can only help get a fuller picture.

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