The ability to isolate groups of cells, single cells and cell compartments in a sterile environment is prompting drug researchers and pharmaceutical manufacturers to revisit laser microdissection.
The technology ensures contamination-free samples, since nothing but light actually touches the sample.
Olympus's new device, SmartCut, is a compact standalone optical-based dissection instrument utilising a high-precision solid state UV laser.
Its operation has been simplified so that no sophisticated technical know-how or training is required.
This is an important improvement from the company's previous laser microdissection system , CellCut, which uses the same laser and unique patented isolation technology.
When used with inverted Olympus CKX41 microscope, Smartcut enables users to simply switch on and start cutting.
Its advanced picosecond laser is controlled by intuitive SmartCut software which allows cells and components to be identified down the microscope, marked and extracted without any extensive homogenisation or isolation procedures.
Johan Kirschner, Olympus's product manager for SmartCut, told In-Pharmatechnologist.com: "It is very easy to use this product, it comes with a solid laser unit, it is already focused so no alignment is required and the software is self-explaining."
"All you need is to have SmartCut installed and then you are ready to go."
Since laser cutting is a highly precise process, SmartCut produces a totally clean break between the required sample and surrounding tissue, minimising sample damage.
It achieves this with a maintenance-free solid-state UV laser that produces a beam of less than 1µm, ensures complete stability and provides exceptional cutting accuracy.
Specimens are mounted on a special membrane-covered frame and a standard glass slide placed below which effectively protects the sample against impurities in the environment, which is particularly crucial for any application involving DNA, or even RNA extraction, where it is essential to minimise contamination.
The microdissected samples are cleanly removed in a single manual step using Olympus's patented CapLift technology.
It works through a specially adapted microcentrifuge tube which is positioned over the cut region and lowered onto the membrane so the adhesive lid of the microcentrifuge tube sticks to the target.
Then the microdissected targets are subsequently lifted away and isolated in a quick and clean process.
The cap can then be easily focussed upon and viewed to confirm the efficiency of the isolation process and for positive identification purposes.
The tube can then be closed to keep the samples in an isolated environment ready for protein, DNA or RNA extraction.
What is more, SmartCut software provides further functions that assist the identification process.
All data relevant to a session are stored, such as the number and size of cut-out areas, as well as instrument settings and parameters.
In addition, pictures of the clean isolation process are automatically stored.
More images can be taken at any point and added to the same session folder, allowing the user to confirm that the required target areas have been removed correctly.
The system is supplied fully preset and therefore, once installed in the lab, is ready-to-use as soon as it is turned on.