Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


MICROLEAN Report Summary

Project ID: 605467
Funded under: FP7-SME
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - MICROLEAN (Retrofitable Automated Microtome System incorporating contactless sample transportation for Histology process)

Executive Summary:
Histology is the microscopic examination of cell tissue samples and is routinely performed in research labs and, more widely, in hospitals for the early detection of diseases (histopathology). Histology is a complex process requiring several steps for the tissue sample preparation. The most demanding and time-consuming step is the microtomy, where the tissue sample, now dehydrated and placed inside a piece of paraffin wax, is cut into slices 4-micrometre thick. This step is further complicated by the fact that the thin slices become wrinkled with the cutting and are normally put on warm water in order to smooth out (with the aggravated problems of rehydrating the cells and increasing the risk of cross-contamination). Microtomy is a labour-intensive procedure carried out by highly-skilled clinical/scientific staff. A skilled operator can perform up to 80 samples a day, but will cost well over €100,000 p.a.

Project Context and Objectives:
The MICROLEAN project aimed at developing a low-cost automation of the microtomy process by a contactless manipulation of the samples. Furthermore, the MICROLEAN system was designed to be retrofittable to existing microtomes. The project started in February 2013 and finalised in January 2016. During the second period of the project (M10-M24), a productive partnership has been created between the SMEs and the RTDs and other members of the consortium.
The project website ( made for MICROLEAN has been developed. The website will be a valuable tool for the communication among partners as well as to disseminate Project results beyond the Consortium and to a wider audience. When choosing the visual identity, the Consortium decided between different logo proposals.

Project Results:
The aim of the MICROLEAN project was to develop a low-cost automation of the microtomy process by a contactless manipulation of the samples. The MICROLEAN system was designed to be retrofittable to existing microtomes. The need for the MICROLEAN system is clear and its development and implementation.
The technical part of the project, includes the work carried out in WP1-WP7. All the subparts of the system where successfully designed and implemented. The designed parts allow the system the manipulated the sections, simulating the microtomy process until these are stored. The system is capable of working in batches of 21 blocks. The sections are produced an series and moved through the entire trajectory within the MICROLEAN system.
The working prototype is the result of the research in several areas such as mechanical engineering, automatization, materials. The validation of the system was carried out at CELLPATH’s facilities in the last months of the project with very good results.

Potential Impact:
The foreseen impacts of MICROLEAN are: cost savings of using MICROLEAN operating overnight sectioning blocks; cost savings from utilising MICROLEAN to section certain types of mainstream common specimens allowing re-deployment of histology staff to more important high value tasks within the lab.

List of Websites:

Reported by

United Kingdom
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