Tissue Microarrays: A Current Medical Research Tool

Iqbal S. Shergill; N. K. Shergill; M. Arya; H. R. H. Patel


Curr Med Res Opin. 2004;20(5) 

In This Article

Summary and Introduction

Recent research in molecular biology has identified a significant number of novel markers, which may have diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic significance. This is particularly pertinent in the field of cancer. Validation of these markers in multiple clinical specimens is currently performed by traditional histopathological techniques, which are disappointingly time consuming, labour intensive and, therefore, economically costly. These limitations have hampered the introduction of many novel markers into everyday clinical practice. The tissue microarray (TMA) is a high throughput technique, which allows the rapid and cost effective validation of novel markers in multiple pathological tissue specimens. Tissue from up to a 1000 histology blocks can be arrayed accurately onto a newly created paraffin block, at designated locations. Subsequently, morphological and molecular investigations can be performed to determine the clinical significance of the novel markers tested. It is now firmly established that the TMA can significantly accelerate the processing of a very large number of tissue specimens with excellent quality, good reliability and preservation of original tissue, with ultimate clinical benefit.

The investigation of the pathogenesis and progression of diseases such as cancer has been revolutionised with the increased use of new molecular biology techniques.[1] Studies on clinical tissue have identified multiple novel markers, primarily at the gene level.[2,3,4,5,6] As the source of the tissue is invariably frozen, clinical follow-up data to correlate any meaningful outcome are lacking. In addition, reproducibility in everyday clinical practice is limited because of the expertise needed to perform these studies, and, more importantly, the cost implications. Current validation of markers on clinical specimens is performed using standard histopathological techniques, which if multiple markers are investigated on multiple tissue specimens will prove to be time consuming, labour intensive and costly. The tissue microarray (TMA) is a high throughput molecular biology technique, which is anticipated to overcome these significant problems. For the purposes of this review, a systematic search of the literature was performed using the PubMed database (1966 to January 2004) with the search terms 'tissue microarrays', augmented by manual searches and the authors' personal bibliographic collections.