Highly Multiplexed Imaging: The Future of Personalized Treatment of Complex Diseases

Highly Multiplexed Imaging: The Future of Personalized Treatment of Complex Diseases

By Grigori Singovski

A personalized, more precise treatment is the future of modern medicine in the face of complex disorders such as cancer. The challenge lies in understanding the differences between one patient and another in order to perfectly adapt the treatment given to two different patients with the same disease based on their genetic and epigenetic characteristics.

In the case of a complex disease like cancer, many tests need to be carried out in order to diagnose its type and potential aggressiveness. There is no one reliable validated biomarker to do so thus a combination of as many as possible is needed to ensure a fairly reliable diagnosis. Typically, traditional techniques like immunohistochemistry (IHC) or immunofluorescence (IHF) can detect no more than 4 to 5 biomarkers simultaneously, due to some technical issues such as the overlapping of spectrums or marker specificity.

The coupling of the quick and easy “traditional” patient sample preparation method with a high resolution laser ablation to CyTOF mass cytometry resulted in a new method. This innovative method allowed scientists to distinguish over 30 biomarkers in the same patient sample with a resolution less than 1µm. This comprised a big advance in the future of diagnosing complex diseases . The method was described by Charlotte Giesen and is shown in the figure below.

Multiplex imaging
Schematic representation of the “Highly Multiplexed Imaging” protocol workflow, adapted from Giesen et al (2014).

The embedded patient sample is incubated with more than 30 biomarker specific antibodies coupled with rare earth metals. The laser ablation frees the metal atom that is detected by the CyTOF mass cytometer and the position is memorized. The entire sample surface is “mapped” in such a manner that a digital picture of the sample is created based on the amount and the location of each given biomarker. Finally, this method allows creating what is known as a SPADE that facilitates the examination of the heterogeneity and cell-cell interactions as well as following the progression of the disease.

This method promotes a more personalized and accurate diagnosis of a given patient sample with over 30, and potentially more than 100, questions answered at once within the same sample. The simple and quick preparation protocol and the amount of information obtained may position this technology as the routine diagnostic tool of tomorrow for the personalized treatment of patients.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

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