New Potential Diagnostic Tool for Identifying Barrett's Esophagus

June 10, 2009

The identification of tissue afflicted with Barrett's Esophagus by researchers from Canadian Light Source and the University of Saskatchewan may lead to improved methods for diagnosing the condition.

The identification of tissue afflicted with Barrett’s Esophagus (BE) by researchers from Canadian Light Source (CLS) and the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) may lead to improved methods for diagnosing the condition.

The researchers, led by CLS staff scientist Luca Quaroni and Dr. Alan Casson, head, Department of Surgery, U of S, examined healthy and diseased tissue. They found, using Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectromicroscopy, that “increased concentrations of particular biomarkers, such as glycoproteins, were associated with Barrett’s tissue.”

“The advantage to using microscopes with synchrotron light is that it allows us to identify chemical biomarkers inside specific cells,” said Dr. Quaroni, who conducted the synchrotron analysis. “Often the differences between healthy and malignant tissue can be quite small, but the differences seen here were quite striking. This is a good proof of concept for developing a traceable technique that matches what can be seen at the macroscopic scale using microscopic samples.”

The diseased tissues “had characteristic regions localized to gland crypts, ranging in size from one pixel to a few tens of pixels, which displayed IR spectra with defined absorption features characteristic of glycoproteins,” according to an abstract of the article, which was published in the June 2009 issue of the Analyst.

According to the researchers, diagnosing BE currently “depends on the skill and experience of individual pathologists examining biopsy samples from patients, often relying on subjective criteria.” The ability to identify these biomarkers may be used as “an additional tool for diagnosis.”

In addition, the use of FTIR appears “to be a potentially useful technique to identify premalignant BE tissues,” as BE can cause a slightly increased risk for esophageal cancer.