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IBM silicon probe aims to modernize pathology

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Big Blue is hoping that its proof of concept silicon probe can put pathology on what it dubs a modern roadmap.

A look at the silicon probe that could advance tissue pathology. Credit: IBM

IBM researchers have developed a silicon microfluidic probe designed to better evaluate biopsy samples used to evaluate diseases like cancer. The new tool cold replace tissue staining and the diagnosis guessing game that comes with it.

The results from IBM's Zurich research team are published in the journal Lab on a Chip. The probe, which is eight millimeters wide and diamond shaped, is similar to an inkjet cartridge. The difference is that IBM's probe aspirates the staining liquid so it doesn't spread and accumulate.

Big Blue is hoping that its proof of concept silicon probe can put pathology on what it dubs a modern roadmap.

Indeed, tissue staining is used today to find disease markers in a patient's sample. Tissue staining revolves around combining an antibody and disease marker with stains. The more intense the color the more disease there is.

The catch is that tissue staining is more art than science. Tissue staining is tedious and there are false positives as well as outright mistakes. Meanwhile, biopsies rely on small tissue samples that can't scale for broader analysis.

IBM's probe is designed to cut out invasive procedures while improving analysis. The probe can stain a small tissue sample---measured in micrometers---with any biomarker.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure