Molecular analysis of cells from cytology specimens can help to establish a diagnosis in ambiguous cases. However, mutations in heterogeneous samples might not be detected because of the diluting effect of DNA from normal background cells. Even if a mutation were detected, it could not be traced back to a specific cell type. Molecular analysis of single cells circumvents this problem. Both mechanical and laser assisted methods have been described for the selective procurement of cells from histology slides; however, they have the drawback of either being technically demanding or expensive. Furthermore, it is nuclear whether they can be applied to cytology specimens. Finally, few of these techniques are able to procure single cells. Therefore, we developed a simplified combined microdissection and aspiration device for the rapid procurement of single cells from clinical cytology specimens. The principle of this device, called the cytopicker, is the combination of the microdissection tool, a steel cannula, with the aspiration tool, a glass capillary connected to a vacuum, into one device. Steel cannulae are optimal for microdissection of cells from the hard matrix of cytology specimens but aspirate poorly. On the other hand, glass capillaries are suboptimal for dissecting but aspirate very well. Combining both tools into one by inserting the capillary into the cannula allows optimal dissection using the cannula (with the glass capillary with-drawn and thus protected), followed by optimal aspiration using the capillary (after being advanced through the cannula). All movements of the device are controlled by just one micromanipulator, making the cytopicker inexpensive to manufacture. The cytopicker can rapidly and simply procure single cells, such as lymphoblasts, from cytology specimens, such as peripheral blood smears. DNA from these cells can be amplified by PCR. However, precautions have to be taken to avoid contamination. Once improved further, the cytopicker might facilitate molecular analysis in the routine cytology laboratory.
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