There’s a wave of new technologies and innovations in histology that are happening at a rapid pace. From techniques at the bench to imaging, the 43rd Annual NSH Symposium/Convention highlighted the latest trends and changes affecting the field.
The Annual NSH Symposium/Convention is one of the leading U.S. conferences dedicated to the field of histotechnology. Each year it attracts histology professionals from across the U.S. and around the world.
This year, the convention hosted 75 exhibitors, presented 45 scientific posters, and held 108 workshops. If you didn’t have the chance to go to the convention, here are a few of the newer technologies and interesting topics on the horizon. Keep an eye out for them!
A major topic of discussion among histologists, pathologists and lab managers was digital pathology. The FDA recently approved the Phillips whole-slide imaging system for reviewing and interpreting digital surgical pathology slides prepared from biopsied tissue. This is the first time the FDA has permitted the marketing of a whole-slide imaging system for these purposes. This will drive the trend toward more use of digital pathology.
However, challenges remain, and there was plenty of talk about slide quality and consistency—especially regarding:
- Consistent thickness of slides to ensure uniform staining
- Slides that are free of folds or floaters that could distort digital images
- Consistent placement of sections on slides
Other challenges involve adapting this new technology into the current laboratory workflow. In fact, a few workshops discussed this issue in detail, highlighting the initial processes, technical considerations, and workflow options. Speakers shared suggestions for pathologist validation as well as a technologist competency matrix. The College of American Pathologists (CAP) has developed an accreditation checklist for digital pathology in order to provide a practical guide for implementing digital pathology.
Stay tuned to this area—digital pathology is only just beginning!
The amount of work using molecular biology techniques has increased rapidly, along with products to support the techniques. One example is the proliferation of nucleic acid extraction products. Other techniques such as FISH (Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization), a robust method for genetic mapping and gene expression profiling, and next-generation sequencing were also discussed in several posters and presentations.
FISH exploits fluorescent dye-labeled probes against a nucleotide sequence of DNA that is typically localized to a chromosome. Several workshops gave attention to in situ hybridization (ISH). They reviewed the scientific fundamentals, recent developments and procedural steps. In situ hybridization is a powerful technique that is quickly becoming one of the most widely used tools in the histology lab today.
Always an important consideration in the histology lab is ensuring that slides are contaminant-free. Having a protein-free environment is critical when dealing with these molecular specimens. Any step in the microtomy process that can improve water filtration, and thereby lessen the risk of contamination, will be very beneficial in this area of histology.
Ergonomics in Histology
One session that stood out was Ergonomics in Histology. This is an ongoing issue for histologists, because of the repetitive motions of histology coupled with poor ergonomics. This workshop provided some easy exercises that can be done in the workplace to help prevent repetitive motion injury (RMI). Among the takeaways:
- Eliminating movements that cause RMI is better than finding ways to compensate for the motion.
- Proper ergonomics reduces costs—one in three workers compensation claim dollars are paid out for repetitive motion injuries.
- Proper ergonomics increases productivity, quality, and employment engagement, decreases turnover and absenteeism, and creates a culture of safety.
Disaster Relief and Blood Drive
An emotionally inspiring aspect of the symposium was the humanitarian aid that fellow attendees provided.
NSH 2017 took place in Orlando, Florida only a few days after Hurricane Irma hit the state. In order to lend a helping hand, NSH Convention attendees participated in a blood drive to help those who had been impacted by the storm.
It was equally impressive to see the resiliency of the Orlando area. Immediate recovery and cleanup efforts after the hurricane ensured a successful show, and the disaster relief teams deserve much credit for their tireless efforts.
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