A new Raman technique that color codes cancerous and health brain cells according to their chemistry could help surgeons remove all traces of brain tumors while minimizing damage to sensitive tissues.
Developed by Sunney Xie at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and colleagues, the technique uses stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy to detect lipids and proteins in brain tissue.
Tumors are relatively high in protein and low in lipids, while normal brain tissue is rich in both. The team encoded Raman signal for lipids in green and the signal for proteins in blue, allowing tumor cells to appear blue, while healthy cells were displayed in green.
Using the technique on mice, the team was able to examine the margins of brain tumors and spot places where cancer cells had infiltrated healthy regions of the brain. Without the use of SRS, these fine details are impossible to see. The technique could help surgeons avoid the removal of too much or too little tissue. The team is now working on building a toothbrush-sized probe that could be used for continuous monitoring during surgery.
Reference: M Ji et al, Sci. Trans. Med., 2013, DOI: 10.1126/scitransimed.3005954