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Raman Spectroscopy Allows More Accurate Cell Analysis

STUTTGART, Germany, May 6, 2014 — A noninvasive Raman spectroscopy procedure used primarily in pharmaceutical quality assurance now has a new application: analyzing living cells more quickly and accurately for rapid cancer screenings.

Raman spectroscopy, which detects the molecular fingerprints of different materials, also allows researchers to investigate living cells without the need for invasive or dye-altering techniques, researchers say.

“We can now investigate not just individual cells in this manner, but entire tissue structures and organs,” said professor Dr. Katja Schenke-Layland of the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB), who is working with physicists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques (IPM). 

Rapid tests for cancer diagnosis have historically been complicated, requiring manipulation of the test specimen with dyeing or sectioning biomarkers, followed by analysis by a pathologist. This method is prone to errors and the specimen could become unusable for further testing, according to the researchers.

“Doctors using mobile Raman spectroscopes during an operation could unambiguously say whether the patient has cancer or not, simply by comparing the cell sample with the database,” Schenke-Layland said.

“Each cell has a unique, unmistakable Raman spectrum. Doctors are able to compare the sample from their patients' cells with our database and complete the diagnosis more quickly,” she added.

The technology is already being employed on a practical basis by industrial partners. The researchers plan to continue refining and expanding its uses and applications, such as in artificial tissue and regenerative medicine.

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