One Histologist Operating Multiple Microtomes: Utilizing Automated Microtomy to Maximize Histology Laboratory Efficiency

General automated microtomy, microtomy

One Histologist Operating Multiple Microtomes: Utilizing Automated Microtomy to Maximize Histology Laboratory Efficiency

Histology laboratory managers are under pressure to meet the increasing demands placed on their laboratory, including managing a greater workload while maintaining workplace satisfaction for histologists. The demand to process more specimens is greater than ever due to increasing cancer incidence and new treatments that require more diagnostic data. This means not only that more patient blocks are entering the laboratory, but also that additional sections are required for special stains and immunohistochemistry. As a result, histologists are busier than ever performing the sometimes-monotonous task of microtomy. How can a histology laboratory manager keep up with the increased demand, while also keeping their histologists happy, fulfilled, and injury-free? Automated microtomy, including automated section mounting, can help.

The Aquaro ASM™ (automated section mounting) is a new device that integrates with existing motorized microtomes to automate section mounting from blade to slide. The Aquaro ASM triggers the microtome to take a section. A gentle water stream then removes a section from the blade, transferring it briefly to a warm water reservoir where it is relaxed at a temperature and for a time programmed by the user. The Aquaro ASM then places the section on a slide, and places the slide in a rack. Pairing an Aquaro ASM with a motorized microtome transforms microtomy from a largely manual and monotonous process to one that requires little intervention other than changing blocks and slide racks.

Automated microtomy, including automated section mounting, can allow histologists to operate more efficiently in several ways:

  • Histologists can perform other tasks: While a motorized microtome and Aquaro ASM cut, relax, and mount sections onto slides, the histologist can take the opportunity to process paperwork, label specimens, prep stains, and other tasks while monitoring the microtomy station. This is especially useful when preparing control slides and performing other serial sectioning protocols that require taking multiple sections before changing the block.
  • Histologists can utilize several microtomes at once: For sectioning that requires more attention, such as for blocks that need to be hydrated frequently or that don’t require large numbers of sections to be taken, users can operate one or more Aquaro ASM in a semi-autonomous manner. In this scenario, a user would be present to change the block or to pause and hydrate a block mid-run. Click below to see a video of a histologist operating three microtomes at once.

Click to watch a video of one histologist operating multiple microtomes

  • Histologists can spend time on tasks that meet their skill level: Microtomy requires a skilled histologist to decide microtome settings, how long to float a section or ribbon, the best sections to mount onto slides, and how to orient the section appropriately on a slide. By utilizing the Aquaro ASM, less skilled histologists can perform microtomy with the skill of a tenured histologist, and more experienced histologists can spend time on higher skill level tasks, such as immunohistochemistry, special stains, and working with more difficult tissues.

Automating microtomy by pairing existing motorized microtomes with the Aquaro ASM can relieve pressure on histology laboratory managers and their histologists by allowing histologists to perform less monotonous tasks, especially those suited to their skill level, and by allowing them to monitor multiple microtomes at once. As well, automating microtomy can also reduce repetitive motion injuries around microtomy, leading to fewer injured histologists and better workplace satisfaction.