Tissue Microarray (TMA) technology is a relatively new investigative tool for harvesting small cylinders of tissue from a range of standard histological sections and arranging them on a on a single microscope glass slide in a grid-like manner. The arrays are subsequently treated with antibodies (proteins which specifically detect and bind to molecular targets of interest) that are complexed with a staining medium to determine the protein and molecular signatures of the underlying pathology of the tissue samples. This technique allows maximization of tissue resources by analysis of small core biopsies of blocks, rather than complete sections. Using this technology, a carefully planned array can be constructed with cases from pathology tissue block archives, such that a 20-year survival analysis can be performed on a cohort of hundreds patients, simultaneously using just a few micro-liters of antibody.
Using TMA technology investigators are beginning to unveil the underlying mechanisms by which healthy tissues are transformed into malignancies and are gaining unparalleled insight as to which patient populations are most likely to respond to a given treatment regimen. TMAs hold tremendous promise for improved accuracy in prognosis, therapy planning and drug discovery.