The demand for histology services is expanding worldwide, in large part due increasing rates of cancer diagnosis. Between 2012 and 2030, the incidence of cancer is expected to increase by 50%. New treatments for cancer and other diseases, such as precision medicine, also require more diagnostic data like immunohistochemistry and special stains. These factors result in an overall increase in the workload for histology laboratories with more sections to cut and stain per patient, and more stains to validate and prepare in the laboratory.
Amplifying the pressure caused by an increased workload, a large portion of the histology workforce is nearing retirement age, and fewer histologists are being trained. Coupled with decreasing reimbursement rates for these tests, histology laboratories are under pressure to process increasing numbers of specimens with decreased staff or newer staff that are being trained on the job.
Histology laboratory managers are looking for solutions to best maximize the efficiency of current staff and skills, as well as newer staff that are still honing their histology skills. As such, many histology laboratory process steps have been automated to ensure that histologists are relieved of repetitive manual tasks. Automation frees up time that can be spent on other necessary tasks, and allows workforce reorganization so staff can dedicate time to the most appropriate tasks for their experience level.
One step in the histology workflow not currently automated is microtomy. Even when motorized microtomes are used, microtomy requires a skilled histologist to judge microtome settings, how long to float a section or ribbon, which sections to mount, and how to best mount the section onto the slide. However, while requiring the judgement of a skilled histologist, these are still repetitive tasks and could be automated with the appropriate instrumentation and careful selection of settings. As well, both turning the microtome handwheel as well as transferring sections from the blade to the water bath and onto slides are sources of repetitive motion injuries that can cause long absences from work. Automated, or even semi-automated microtomy could free up skilled histologists operate multiple microtomes at once and reduce the likelihood of injury due to microtomy.
The Aquaro ASM (Automated Section Mounting) is a device that interfaces with existing motorized microtomes to automate the transfer of paraffin-embedded sections from the blade to slides. The device uses a gentle water stream to detach sections from the microtome blade, float them on a warm water bath for a time and temperature programmed by the user, and then mount the sections onto slides. Programmable temperature control means that less-experienced users can program section relaxation settings optimized for each tissue type, reducing the need for the judgement of a more experienced histologist deciding when the section should be placed on a slide. The Aquaro ASM also places sections precisely on the slide at the top, middle, or bottom position, reducing the need of an experienced histologist to appropriately orient the sections on the slide. Operation of the Aquaro ASM allows histologists to operate multiple microtomes at once, and also allows less-experienced histologists to obtain the section quality of a more skilled histologist.
Download the free white paper, Efficient Microtomy: Automated Section Mounting Maximizes Resources to Meet Increasing Demands to find out how you can utilize automated microtomy to: