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Credit: University of Cincinnati

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Credit: University of Cincinnati

A biopsy is literally a “glimpse into life,” and Paul Lee, MD, assistant professor of clinical pathology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, got an important one during his residency at the University of Massachusetts.

“I noticed a specific problem with the procedures for fixing and examining tissue samples to look for signs of cancer and other diseases,” Lee said. “And I had this idea.”

Lee holds a Ph.D. Who has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry as well as medicine, said he found the standard biopsy method, which combines bulk tissue processing and traditional embedding techniques, “slow and wasteful. It used huge amounts of solvents, huge blocks of paraffin, and left doctors waiting for up to seven hours.” “. “For results.”

That’s still pretty much the way it’s done, he said, using “a huge processor, gallons of solvent, and 300-500 dried samples embedded in blocks and then sliced ​​for slides.” But worse than the waste or expense, this process “prevents doctors from making same-day diagnoses unless they are willing to destroy precious tissue.”

Lee describes his new method as simple, but it has the potential to make rapid processing (instant readings, as he calls them) much closer to reality.

“If this operation can only take two hours, and not overnight, then it becomes an inpatient procedure,” Lee said. “Patients don’t have to go home, in some cases even to other states, and come back for a surgical consultation, and then for surgery.” The same, and some may not return at all.

Now, “all of this can be arranged within a day or two. There will be no compromise to patient care or loss to follow-up.”

Lee’s invention uses a disposable syringe and cuvette to perform individual tissue tests, using small paraffin blocks and a built-in embedding fixation process to obtain fast and accurate readings on small biopsies.

“Let’s say you’re making a cup of coffee,” he said to me. “If you make a whole jug and only need one cup, it’s a waste of time and resources. Think of this as a Keurig for sample processing.”

And when life hangs in the balance — not just with aggressive forms of cancer but also with liver, kidney and heart transplants — time, he said, is truly of the essence. “Days matter, hours matter.”

This method has other advantages as well, Lee said. “It preserves the tissue, and does not affect the sample, so we can perform additional tests to re-validate the results,” he said. “By using a disposable cuvette, there is no chance of cross-contamination. Plus, it can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure and does not have to disrupt processes or workflow.”

This technique could be used by other researchers as well, Lee said.

“I get requests all the time for different samples, and I have to postpone a lot of them for human pathology testing.” Now, he said, “They can be their own therapist, and not wait for results from another lab. It’s faster for them, too, and uses fewer resources.”

Lee and his team have successfully tested a prototype of the invention, and the patent is still pending.

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