The Muse in Histology

Histology has remained very much the same since the 1800s. If you are interested in a history of it, you can look here. For a science that diagnoses so many diseases, and is fraught with potential to cause patients harm, it is a wonder someone hasn’t come up with a better way to look at the body microscopically before now.

A pathologist once told me I would be out of a job in ten years because of an offshoot of Histology called Molecular Pathology. The molecules within a cell are studied with that discipline, such as DNA. The pathologist who thought I would be out of a job expected Molecular Path would be all the rage. I had hoped he was right.

There are a lot of things wrong with my type of work, as you might surmise from my posts. There must be a better way. But he wasn’t right. He expected histologists to be a thing of the past by the year 2000. Yeah, right. All Molecular Pathology does for the histology lab is make more work. They get their testing samples from us.

Here it is 2017 and for the first time I have seen a technique that might actually reduce our work. It is called MUSE.

MUSE stands for Microscopy with UV Surface Excitation. Basically, the pieces that we cut and mount on a slide (see the last post if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about) are looked at with UV light instead. The biopsies don’t have to be cut up at all. They are placed on glass and photographed with UV light. The image is then colored to indicate the different types of structures.

This is a photo of an artery using MUSE. It has a 3D quality to it that histology slides lack.

Image from

Here is an image of an artery with normal histologic preparation.

Photo from

That is a huge difference and that difference is what will stop MUSE from entering the lab any time soon.

I asked a pathologist what he thought of the new technique. He said he needed to see slices of tissue in order to diagnose. That means he needs us to cut away a lot of the biopsy in order to ‘face’ the block and then take a section from the block. Yes, we can do that many times and give pathologists many sections to look at but eventually the tissue runs out. facing blockJust look at the curls of breast and paraffin in this photo. Everything that is cut off the block is thrown away.

With MUSE nothing is thrown out. A biopsy could be cut into slices. How thin and how effective that would be for a pathologist, I can’t say, but I expect this technique will be employed in some way.

When I described it to the pathologist, he considered it as ‘potentially valuable’ in the surgical suite. Imagine instead of having good tissue cut out by a surgeon and examined in the lab, the surgeon could press a UV light to what he thinks could be cancer and learns it is healthy tissue instead. He could leave it and move on if it is. A surgeon would get microscopic analysis of a patient’s tissue without cutting it out of the patient. A pathologist sitting at a computer could ‘read’ the images that the surgeon captured with his UV light probe and MUSE technology. It is even possible a pathologist from anywhere with an internet connection could be consulted.

Maybe Histology can come into the 21st century sometime soon. I might be out of a job then, but all surgical patients might benefit from that and I can move on to becoming a full time writer.

Would a science writer be in my future. Maybe you can let me know?

If this new technology interests you, here are two sites you might like to visit. where you can find more photos from this new and exciting technology.

The FASEB Journal where you can see the original paper about MUSE written by Richard Levenson and Farzad Fereidouni.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s