New tool, which ‘sees’ diseased cells, may greatly boost accurate brain surgery

In the battle against brain cancer, doctors now have a new weapon: an imaging technology that will make brain surgery dramatically more accurate by allowing surgeons to distinguish between brain tissue and tumors at a microscopic level.

Called SRS microscopy — short for stimulated Raman scattering — a team of researchers that included Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, the Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Minbiao Ji, a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry and chemical biology, were able to “see” the tiniest areas of tumor cells in brain tissue, and to distinguish tumor from healthy tissue in the brains of living mice. Then they showed that the same was possible in tissue removed from a patient with glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most deadly brain tumors. The research is described in a Sept. 4 paper in Science Translational Medicine.

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