OCT 07, 2021 5:59 AM PDT

Color-Changing Slides Improve Accuracy in Cancer Diagnosis

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

When cancer is diagnosed, a sample has to be taken from a patient, treated, and analyzed. Researchers have now modified this method slightly to improve detection. Biopsies are assessed on glass slides, and a new type of glass slide has been created called NanoMslide, which can cause a color change to indicate when cancer cells are present. The work has been reported in Nature.

Image credit: Pixabay

The standard approaches in tissue analysis typically involve applying a stain or immunological label to a sample. But the results aren't always easy to interpret, and there is a "risk that some samples are misdiagnosed, particularly during the very early stages of disease," said one of the project leaders, Professor Brian Abbey.

"Recent breakthroughs in nanotechnology have allowed us to manipulate the interaction of light with biological tissue so that abnormal cells appear to have a different color to healthy ones. Comparing images from our slides to conventional staining is like watching color television when all you've seen before is black and white."

Healthy and cancerous tissue on (left) regular glass slides treated with H&E staining, and (right) NanoMslides, and a graph of the spectral characteristics of those images is seen in this panel from Balaur, E et al, Nature 2021

These slides have a nanofabricated coating, which turns a glass slide into a sensor. It only takes light to activate that sensor, and when something like tissue touches the sensor, an array of colors are produced; tissues can be see in a spectrum of color when thin slices are placed on this type of slide. When the researchers tested various types of tissues on the NanoMslide, they found that certain colors would routinely indicate when cancer cells were present.

With current tools, it can be hard to tell the difference between benign lesions and the early stages of breast cancer, noted another study leader, Associate Professor Belinda Parker. If there are only a small number of abnormal cells, it can be especially challenging. The researchers suggested that NanoMslides will make these diagnoses easier.

"When I first looked at a tissue under the microscope on the NanoMslide, I was incredibly excited," said Parker. "For the first time I saw cancer cells just popping up at me. They were a different color from the surrounding tissue, and it was very easy to distinguish them from surrounding cells."

Parker suggested that NanoMslides could be used with current staining protocols to make more accurate diagnoses. "Based on our preliminary findings with the NanoMslide, we think this platform could be really useful in early breast cancer diagnosis, but also in other cancers where we're really just trying to pick up a few cancer cells in a complex tissue or a blood sample."

Sources: The Conversation, La Trobe University, Nature

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 14, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Cutting Edge Tools Change Our View of the Nuclear Pore Complex
OCT 14, 2021
Cutting Edge Tools Change Our View of the Nuclear Pore Complex
There are many intricate molecular machines that perform essential functions, and this work has called a method used to ...
OCT 21, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
In a First, a Working Pig Kidney was Tested in a Person
OCT 21, 2021
In a First, a Working Pig Kidney was Tested in a Person
There are many people out there waiting on transplant lists for organs to become available. Sadly, many of those people ...
NOV 08, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Sample Prep Possibilities: How to Gauge Your "Good Enough"
NOV 08, 2021
Sample Prep Possibilities: How to Gauge Your "Good Enough"
As scientists, we can be very uncomfortable with the concept of “good enough”. It feels contrary to everythi ...
NOV 04, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Sperm Will Swim in Different Directions to Locate the Egg
NOV 04, 2021
Sperm Will Swim in Different Directions to Locate the Egg
Sperm are basically cells with a tail. It can seem surprising that they are able to navigate and swim with purpose. New ...
NOV 07, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Cells Use Messengers to Signal to One Another
NOV 07, 2021
How Cells Use Messengers to Signal to One Another
In recent years, researchers have discovered the importance of a kind of antenna that is found on most cells, a structur ...
DEC 01, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Researchers develop a novel drug that can combat diabetic tissue damage
DEC 01, 2021
Researchers develop a novel drug that can combat diabetic tissue damage
Diabetes is a common disease that occurs when high levels of blood sugar start to silently damage bodily tissue and orga ...
Loading Comments...