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Direct assessment of tissue possible through new microscopy technique

29 August 2023
In tissue examination, body tissue is examined with a microscope by a pathologist, a physician who specializes in examining and assessing cell and/or tissue material from a patient. Normally, it takes at least 24 hours before the extracted piece of tissue is available for the pathologist to review. With medical physicist Laura van Huizen's research, a new microscopic method can be deployed that allows the excised tissue to be assessed immediately.

Waiting to assess excised tissue

Assessing tissue as soon as possible is crucial for diagnosing diseases or, for example, for completely removing a tumor. After the tissue is removed, it is sent to the pathology laboratory. In order to assess the tissue, it must first be processed, a process that takes at least 24 hours. During this time, it is not possible for the pathologist to be able to view the removed piece of tissue and both the doctor and the patient must wait for the results before treatment can continue.

HHG microscopy

By using a new microscopic method, it should be possible to directly assess excised tissue, Van Huizen's research shows. She examined a promising microscopy technique called Higher Harmonic Generation (HHG) microscopy. She looked at images of different types of tissue from patients with different diseases, focusing on lung tissue. In this way, Van Huizen was able to test the method and with positive results. She demonstrates that HHG microscopy is a suitable technique to assess tissue directly on site. Using the HHG microscope, Van Huizen was able to make an overview image of the piece of tissue within 7 minutes from the time of tissue sampling.

Study shows method is suitable

In the study, images of lung biopsies were taken from patients in whom lung cancer was suspected. All the important tissue structures and features to make a diagnosis could be identified using HHG microscopy. The results showed that according to the pathologists, the HHG image quality was adequate in 97% and in 87% they could make a correct assessment about whether the tissue contained cancer or not. "Direct assessment of the extracted tissue can potentially lead to improving and speeding up diagnostics" the researcher explained.

Benefit to the patient

Thus, assessment of the extracted tissue without having to wait at least 24 hours offers only advantages. When taking lung biopsies, for example, there is now no feedback on the suitability of the tissue taken out. For example, does the biopsy contain the right material to make a diagnosis? If the pathologist later assesses that it does not, the patient must return for a repeat procedure with the associated risks and inconveniences. With the HHG microscope, the tissue can be assessed immediately and the physician can be assisted in extracting an appropriate biopsy. "This results in reduced associated health costs, but particularly reduced adverse effects for the patient," explains Van Huizen.