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Device to cut biological tissues in three-dimensions

Scientists at the CSIC and at the Polytechnic University of Valencia have developed a system that enables cutting biological tissues in curved forms. The system is composed of a software and an accessory for being attached to the standard tool. The device offers a totally new approximation to the structural and functional studies of biological tissues.

Above: Device to cut automatically a tissue in three-dimensions. It has a platform with 3-axis movement controlled by three motors and the software that gives the grid reference. Below: example of a brain image with the neuronal circuit, which has the grid reference that is transmitted to the device, to cut the tissue in the wished shapeWhen biological tissues are analyzed (i.e. in biopsies, autopsies or scientific research), specialists remove a sample from the organism and cut it by the most convenient place with a specialised tool, the vibratome, which cuts tissues in thin slices.

Cutting biological tissue in sections, with a fix orientation (bi-dimensional, as a matter of fact) implies limitations to study structures which are by nature three-dimensional. But until now  there was not another way to do it.

The new system developed by the CSIC ant the Polytechnic University of Valencia is composed of a software and an accessory for being attached to a standard vibratome. The novelty is that with this system, it is possible to cut tissues with curved forms, which is more convenient for the anatomical requirements of the structures to be studied. This is possible because the device realigns the sample modifying the inclination and rotation of the blade. Therefore, new studies of any tissue can be addressed in the field of basic or clinical research or in the field of pathological anatomy, which were impossible until now.

The device makes curved cuts in the three dimensions of the tissue, making possible to choose any orientation plane. In neuroscience, it allows obtaining “functional” zones of the brain.  For instance, “using a tractography we can obtain the trajectory of the axons, the nervous ‘wires’,  that connect the neurons in two zones of the brain and then we can make a three-dimensional cut containing both groups of neurons undamaged”, explains Santiago Canals, a CSIC scientist at the Instituto de Neurociencias in Alicante and one of the creators of this system.

Besides, the development has been designed to make cuts of either living tissues or tissues which have been embedded in resin. For the living tissues, it is only required to keep them in a cool liquid containing all the nutrients that maintain them functional and alive. Working with living tissues enables to make studies of “circuit’s electrophysiology” and the study of neuronal populations connected. Also, enables the study of action mechanisms in order to research the effects of drugs aimed at treating neurological or mental disorders.  The new system offers many possibilities in any area of research aimed at studying tissues or organs functionally and anatomically active.


Josep Calaforra Guzman
Delegación institucional del
CSIC en la Comunidad
Tel.: 96 362 27 57
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