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Advances in cancer screening through digitization

By Tim Sandle     Jul 15, 2017 in Health
Tokyo - Researchers in Japan have developed a new model for the assessment of tumors using a laser imaging model. The method has been successfully compared with more conventional technologies.
The new process involves image analysis to allow for the visualization of whole-body cancer metastasis at the single-cell level. The technique has come from the RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center in collaboration with the University of Tokyo. The imaging method can be applied to the examination of whole organs at the single-cell level. The study was led by Dr. Hiroki Ueda at RIKEN together with Kohei Miyazono from Tokyo University.
To test the technique, experiments have been run using transgenic mice bred to be transparent mice (which allows the image analysis to be fully optimized). The study of the mice allowed the researchers to create 3-D maps of cancer cells throughout the body and organs.
The so-termed ‘transparentization’ of the mice was achieved through optical clearing methods. The success of this should lead to a new wave of anatomical studies which combine tissue transparency together with sophisticated cell-labeling techniques and the use of light microscopy. With the method, the researchers were able to quantify metastatic cells very early in formation. This means, once the method is applied to humans, far earlier cancer detection and thus the chance to administer treatment earlier.
Discussing the research in a research note, Dr. Hiroki Ueda said: “One of the biggest difficulties in studying cancer is that tumor metastasis is started by just a few metastasized cells.” To overcome this the cancer specialist adds: “Our new method makes it possible to image the whole body down to the individual cell level, and therefore we can detect cancer at spatial resolutions beyond what is possible using other current imaging techniques.”
The complexity of developing the imaging part of the process was based upon selecting the optimal refractive index to use for the clearing agent. The refractive index is a dimensionless number that describes how light propagates through that medium. Once this issue of selection was overcome, the imaging device was used to capture images digitally and store them for later analysis. This represents an important part of the digitalization of healthcare and medicine.
The new research has been published in the journal Cell Reports. The research paper is under the heading: “Whole-Body Profiling of Cancer Metastasis with Single-Cell Resolution.”
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