Scientists have developed a new laser-guided imaging technology that can make brain surgery more accurate by allowing neuron surgeons to distinguish brain tissue from tumours at a microscopic level.
A team of University of Michigan Medical School and Harvard University researchers describes how the technique allows them to “see” the tiniest parts of tumour cells in brain tissue.
The work is based on Raman scattering, a physics phenomena whereby shining a laser on an object emits a unique colour pattern of scattered light that represents its chemical composition.
The phenomena is named after CV Raman, one of the Indian scientists who co-discovered the effect and shared a 1930 Nobel Prize in physics for it.
The new imaging system provided a colour-coded map that the researchers used to distinguish between healthy brain tissue and gliobastoma.
Gliobastoma multiforme is the most common and most lethal form of primary brain cancer.
The scientists used this technique in living mice. They used the imaging tech to distinguish tumour from healthy tissue in the brains of mice and then showed that the same was possible in tissue removed from a patient with glioblastoma multiforme.
“Though brain tumour surgery has advanced in many ways, survival for many patients is still poor, in part because surgeons can’t be sure that they’ve removed all tumour tissue before the operation is over,” said co-lead author Daniel Orringer.
“We need better tools for visualising tumour during surgery, and SRS microscopy is highly promising. With SRS we can see something that’s invisible through conventional surgical microscopy,” he said.
The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.