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From beaker to bits: Collaboration creates computational model of human tissue
Date:4/2/2012

g tissue from a patient. The tissue sample is then sliced and stained for easier viewing and looked at through the age-old tool of biology, the microscope. This process is called histology. The pathologist is literally looking for cancer. When looking through the microscope, trained pathologists simply know cancer when they see it. They don't know how it came to be or where it is going, just that it is present in the tissue in front of them. In other words, they can see the structure of the cancer, but not know its function. In order to truly know the roots of diseases like cancer, scientists need to know how it arose in the tissue in the first place.

One way of seeing how cancer functions is to literally grow and watch cancerous tissue form in the lab. This process of growing cells in something like a test tube outside of the body is called cell culturing. It is a way to simplify and control the elaborate symphony of what is going on within the body, outside the body. But, a cell culture is only one small part of the symphony of our bodies. It can never tell the whole story.

Therefore, tools like histology and cell culture needed to be combined to get a fuller picture of the transition from healthy cells to full-fledged cancer. But no laboratory experiments exist to make the connection between the two. This is where computation can play a significant role, according to Plopper and Yener. Through computation Plopper and Yener were able to, for the first time ever, quantitatively compare histology samples with lab cultures.

The new computational method uses graph theory. Instead of looking at tissue as a series of cells, graph theory simplifies the system into a series of dots and lines with the dots being the cells and the lines their interactions. The program links and compares the accuracy of data from actual human tissue samples from histology with those grown in the controlled laboratory setting. The result is a new tool that can det
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Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco
demarg@rpi.edu
518-276-6542
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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