British scientists have created a technique to generate 3D images of a piece of tissue, which could be used to help spot and treat cancer.
At present, tissue samples have to be cut into very thin slices and examined one at a time using a microscope. 2D images like these reveal just one cross section of a particular piece of tissue.
Now, scientists from the University of Leeds have developed a technique that creates hi-resolution, colour 3D images of a piece of tissue that can be rotated on a computer screen and examined from any angle.
3D images could help experts find small tumours missed by conventional 2D scanners. In addition, the 3D images show major blood vessels or sensitive organs situated near the tumour, helping surgeons remove it safely.
Cancer Research UK said the technology could help researchers understand how cancer grew and spread and how to treat it more effectively.
Writing in the American Journal of Pathology, the researchers cut a piece of tissue into hundreds of very thin slices. Each of these slices was put onto a 1mm thick piece of glass and loaded into a digital scanner, creating 2D impressions of each cross-section.
Their unique software then generated a 3D image from the virtual slides, creating a realistic picture that the researchers could manipulate and spin around.
Dr Kat Arney, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "A tumour is a complex three-dimensional 'organ' made of cancerous and healthy cells, including blood vessels, immune cells and other 'normal' cells.
"It will be fascinating to see how this exciting new technique is taken forward by cancer researchers, and what secrets it can yield about the disease."
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