Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a groundbreaking microscopy technology known as decrowding expansion pathology (dExPath).
This innovative method allows for the visualization of previously unseen details in human brain tissue, opening new avenues for the diagnosis and treatment of brain cancer.
The new procedure is intended to provide deeper insights into various brain diseases.
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Developed by researchers, dExPath technology employs a special chemical treatment to separate proteins within tissue, making nanometer-sized structures and even previously hidden cell populations visible. This "super-resolution imaging" technology offers potential to enhance diagnostic strategies and improve patient outcomes significantly. By utilizing dExPath, scientists can stain proteins in tissues that were inaccessible before, shedding light on brain cancer development and potentially advancing aggressive neurological disease treatment.
Bringing super-resolution imaging to the clinic
Traditionally, researchers relied on expensive, super-high-resolution microscopes that were not only cost-prohibitive but also impractical for high-throughput analyses of brain tissues. Pablo Valdes, MD, PhD, a neurosurgery resident alumnus at Brigham and the lead author of the study, highlighted how dExPath democratizes super-resolution imaging. This technology enables the examination of neurological diseases at a nanoscale level using conventional clinical samples and microscopes, marking a significant advancement in neurology research.
Collaborative Efforts for a Breakthrough
The collaboration between Ed Boyden, PhD, of MIT, and E. Antonio Chiocca, MD, PhD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, along with their mentoring of Pablo Valdes, has led to the development of dExPath to overcome the limitations of original expansion technology. This new method chemically modifies tissues, allowing for the expansion of protein structures without destruction, enabling deeper insights into brain tissue analysis.
Implications for neurological disease diagnostics
The application of dExPath to both healthy and cancerous brain tissues, as well as tissues affected by neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, has revealed uniform tissue expansion without distortion. This enables accurate protein structure analysis, enhancing the quality of brain imaging. Notably, dExPath imaging has uncovered that tumors previously classified as "low-grade" may harbor more aggressive features, suggesting a potential reevaluation of tumor grading and treatment strategies.
Future directions and validation
While promising, dExPath requires further validation on larger sample sizes before it can be integrated into neurological condition diagnostics. The technology's ability to provide detailed and accurate brain tissue images could lead to the identification of new biomarkers, improving the diagnosis and treatment of aggressive brain diseases. Pablo Valdes, now an assistant professor of neurosurgery and Jennie Sealy Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience at the University of Texas Medical Branch, envisions dExPath as a pivotal tool in neuro-oncology and neurological disease research, aiming to enhance diagnostic strategies and patient outcomes.
COMPAMED-tradefair.com; Source: BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL