Washington, July 2 : Scientists have created a robot that has the ability to automatically reproduce and evaluate tissue slices only micromillimeters thick.
Experts at TIGA, a new high-tech imaging centre at the University of Heidelberg that has been founded in co-operation with the Japanese company Hamamatsu, say that their robot may be helpful for researchers in understanding cancer or in following in detail the effect of treatment on cells and tissue.
The researchers have also revealed that the robot they call "NanoZoomer" can scan the tissue slices, and display them on the monitor at ultra high resolution and in various planes.
"Technically, this has brought the fully automatic evaluation of tissue changes and approaches for new therapy within our grasp," says Professor Dr. Peter Schirmacher, Director of the Institute for Pathology at Heidelberg University Hospital, adding that this will represent a new milestone in pathology.
The researcher believe that the NanoZoomer's high-resolution images and special evaluation programs may some day make it possible to evaluate tissue and cell samples more quickly and accurately, which in turn will help gain important new insights for therapy tailored to the individual patient, such as for breast cancer. According to them, the robot will be able to determine changes in cells and tissue fully automatically in the future.
"The NanoZoomer represents a quantum leap in tissue research," says Dr. Niels Grabe of the Institute for Medical Biometry and Informatics and research director at the TIGA Center.
The medical IT specialists use the NanoZoomer to evaluate huge quantities of data from tissues for their research.
Dr. Niels Grabe and his colleagues used data to model virtual skin tissue.
"On a computer model of human skin tissue we can test whether certain substances are toxic, for example. In the future, this could make it easier to develop potential new drugs," said Dr. Grabe.
Hamamatsu recognized the many possible applications early on, so that new technological markets have now been opened up for them.
"We are happy to have found two partners in the Heidelberg Institute of Pathology and the Institute of Medical Biometry and Informatics with whom we can develop concrete clinical uses and new applications for research," said Hideo Hiruma, Managing Director of Hamamatsu Photonics, Japan.