Original Article | Published:

Characterization of foreign materials in paraffin-embedded pathological specimens using in situ multi-elemental imaging with laser spectroscopy

Modern Pathology volume 31, pages 378384 (2018) | Download Citation


Pathologists typically encounter many disparate exogenous materials in clinical specimens during their routine histopathological examinations, especially within the skin, lymph nodes, and lungs. These foreign substances may be free extracellular deposits or induce several clinical abnormalities or histopathological patterns. However, pathologists almost never investigate or report the chemical nature of exogenous metals in clinical specimens due to a lack of convenient and available technologies. In this paper, a novel strategy based on laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) technology is evaluated for in situ multi-elemental tissue imaging. The improved procedures allow visualization of the presence of chemical elements contained within paraffin-embedded specimens of medical interest with elemental images that are stackable with conventional histology images. We selected relevant medical situations for which the associated pathology reports were limited to the presence of lymphohistiocytic and inflammatory cells containing granules (a granuloma and a pseudolymphoma) or to lymph nodes or skin tissues containing pigments or foreign substances. Exogenous elements such as aluminum, titanium, copper, and tungsten were identified and localized within the tissues. The all-optical LIBS elemental imaging instrument that we developed is fully compatible with conventional optical microscopy used for pathology analysis. When combined with routine histopathological analysis, LIBS is a versatile technology that might help pathologists establish or confirm diagnoses for a wide range of medical applications, particularly when the nature of external agents present in tissues needs to be investigated.

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We are thankful for research funding from the ITMO Cancer et ITMO Technologies pour la santé de l'alliance nationale pour les sciences de la vie et de la santé (AVIESAN), the Institut National du Cancer (INCa), and INSERM within the project LAST (#PC201513).

Author information

Author notes

    • Vincent Motto-Ros
    •  & Lucie Sancey

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Institute for Advanced Biosciences, UGA/Inserm U 1209/CNRS UMR 5309 joint research center, Grenoble, France

    • Benoit Busser
    • , Jean-Luc Coll
    • , Julie Charles
    •  & Lucie Sancey
  2. Grenoble Alpes University Hospital, Grenoble, France

    • Benoit Busser
    • , Vincent Bonneterre
    • , Nicole Pinel
    •  & Julie Charles
  3. Institut Lumière Matière, UMR 5306, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, CNRS, Villeurbanne, France

    • Benoit Busser
    • , Samuel Moncayo
    • , Florian Trichard
    • , Philippe Dugourd
    •  & Vincent Motto-Ros
  4. CRITT Matériaux Alsace, Schiltigheim, France

    • Frédéric Pelascini
  5. University Hospital of Clermont-Ferrand, Clermont-Ferrand, France

    • Michel D'Incan


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Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Benoit Busser.

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