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Inside the Lab Analytical science, Digital and computational pathology, Oncology, Software and hardware, Technology and innovation

Optimizing Cancer Research with the MMI CellCut

sponsored by Molecular Machines

The Molecular Machines and Industries (MMI) CellCut system is the latest technology in advanced laser “CapSure” microdissection. But how? It’s simple: combined, its high-precision laser and CapSure technology reliably isolates single cells from tissue sections to extract RNA for transcriptomics and sequencing. The low-damage laser protects the sample’s surrounding areas, but it is also precise – creating a cutting edge that delivers unprecedented results, while the patented adhesive isolation caps enable contamination-free isolation of single cells and ensure no excised cells are lost.

The MMI CellCut has huge potential for applications in oncology. “Our translational cancer research focuses on particular mechanisms of tumorigenesis for the identification of novel tumor biomarkers and therapeutics,” says Shawn Baldacchino, a member of the molecular pathology research team at the University of Malta. “The MMI CellCut enables us to selectively isolate specific tumor cell populations based on morphology from H&E-stained, formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections for RNA analysis. Using this method, we have isolated distinct malignant clones within heterogeneous tumors and microdissected normal breast duct tissue to establish physiological expression levels. Based on gene expression, we classify breast cancer tumors to identify biomarkers towards novel effective therapeutics.”

Intratumoral heterogeneity is a major challenge for clinicians. With the MMI CellCut, researchers can specifically excise morphologically different areas of a tumor to understand cellular heterogeneity and optimize treatment plans. This can be applied to any cancer type that displays tissue heterogeneity. Moreover, the role of invading immune cells in cancer progression is still not fully understood. By integrating the MMI CellCut onto a fluorescent microscope, invading tumor cells can be identified via immunofluorescence microscopy and subsequently cut with laser microdissection. The combination of spatial and molecular information on these cells can be then used to better understand tumor immunology

From a mixed-cell culture with tumor cells and immune cells, homogeneous cell populations can be isolated with the MMI CellCut for further cultivation or molecular analyses. For example, T cells could be isolated when inducing apoptosis in the tumor cells they interact with, allowing for analysis of specific gene regulation processes that might not be detected in bulk experiments

For a seamless digital workflow, the system can be equipped with the MMI CellScan to save high-resolution, whole-slide digital images – in brightfield and fluorescence – and preserve detailed spatial information on target cells before and after extraction. Cancer is still a major threat to human health and MMI wants to empower scientists by contributing its technology to support those studying tumor development – helping them establish a precise diagnosis, identify optimal treatments, and get one step closer to curing patients.

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