Doctors often study tissue samples, or biopsies, to diagnose and treat diseases. Yet samples can be damaged by the lab techniques involved. Here researchers have perfected a method for embedding lung tissue in paraffin so it can be scanned in 3D harmlessly using a technique called micro–computed tomography. Comparing cubes of scanned tissue (ten times smaller than dice), it’s easy to spot differences between the healthy lung (left) and lung tissue warped by idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF, right). Here scar tissue (fibrosis) has built up in swirling knots known as fibrosis foci, making the IPF tissue look thicker in places. Adding a third dimension improves upon traditional 2D pictures (pictured on the top faces of these cubes) – revealing that fibrosis foci develop in multiple places at once. This may explain how IPF progresses quickly towards fatal respiratory failure, and will hopefully guide future treatments.
Written by John Ankers
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