Meldrum concurs, as to the shortcomings of traditional pathology. As director of the Microscale Life Sciences Center, an NIH Center of Excellence in genomic science, she has devoted much of her career to the close study of cell heterogeneity, and the manner in which individual cells can go awry as they transition to diseased states. "In our analysis of live single cells we can quantify significant variation from cell to cell under the same conditions," says Meldrum.
The group used Cell-CT to examine 150 cells in each of three specific categories: normal, benign fibrocystic and malignant breast epithelial. Controversy remains as to whether breast fibrosis, which may result from hormonal changes, is a normal condition or an early harbinger of malignancy. The condition occurs when ligaments, scars, supportive tissue or other fibrous tissue become more prominent in the breast than fatty tissue.
Cell-CT is a new kind of microscope, able to image cells in three-dimensions, using a technique called optical projection tomography. Cell-CT operates much like a normal CT scanner, though it uses visible photons of light, rather than X-rays. Cells prepared for observation are not placed on slides, but are instead suspended in gel and injected through a micro-capillary tube that permits multiple imaging in 360 degrees.
The scanning process produces hundreds of thin slices through the cell. These sections, or tomographs, are reassembled through computer software, forming a detailed 3-D portrait. Movies of
|Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer|
Arizona State University