Biotechnology Programme

Histopathology Core Unit

Head of Unit:  vacancy
Research highlights

In 2017, the Unit maintained the usual outstanding levels of throughput in terms of number of requests of services, which included nearly 34,000 paraffin-embedded blocks, more than 26,000 histochemical techniques, around 9,000 routine IHC techniques, and more than 6,000 requests for histological slide scanning and image analysis, in addition to a small number of other services such as tissue microarray preparation and ISH.

This year, two of the technological areas mastered by the Unit were subjected to a significant upgrade and improvement. First, the laser microdissector was substantially upgraded in terms of software as well as hardware elements. The new version of the instrument now enables the selection of the areas to be dissected by colour detection, based on the selection system implemented in the AxioVision imaging software. Also, we incorporated a new platform for automated immunostaining, the Roche Discovery Ultra. This new system is able to perform IHC and ISH in an independent manner, which substantially increases its flexibility and capacity to adapt to the fluctuating needs of our customers. It also allows revealing the stains with chromogenic and fluorescent markers with up to five colours, and we have actually included several new chromogenic systems based on the peroxidase system. This has also made it possible to increase the number of immunohistochemical markers in both human and mouse tissues, particularly on samples from patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models. Other technological developments that took place in the Unit this year include the set-up of histological techniques on cells grown in tissue culture plates for the study of glucogen deposits using P.A.S. technique.

The Unit is increasingly involved in clinical trials that require assistance regarding complex IHC techniques on human tissues; these are conducted in collaboration with several pharmaceutical companies. Also, our commitment to training and educational activities is reflected in our participation in a number of training programmes at different levels, ranging from modules of ‘Formación Profesional’ for Pathology technicians to several Masters, as well as the course focusing on secondary school teachers that is organised through the ‘CNIO & the City’ project.

Due to the great importance that our users place on quality and reproducibility, the Unit participates in several External Quality Assessment Schemes, such as NordiQC and UK NEQAS, which evaluate the quality of the staining techniques performed at the Unit and in which more than 800 laboratories participate worldwide. In 2017, our Unit incorporated a new companion diagnostic module from NordiQC focusing on PD-L1; this was done due to the high demand and increasing clinical importance of this marker. Overall, the Unit scored very high in all the evaluated techniques, and two of the protocols developed by the Unit were incorporated into the ‘Best Methods section’ of the UKNEQAS Cellular Pathology Technique.