Tissue Microarrays: Applications in Neuropathology Research, Diagnosis, and Education


Gregory N. Fuller, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology-085, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd., Houston, TX 77030 (e-mail: gfuller@mdanderson.org)


Tissue microarrays (TMAs) are composite paraf-fin blocks constructed by extracting cylindrical tissue core “biopsies” from different paraffin donor blocks and re-embedding these into a single recipient (microarray) block at defined array coordinates. Using this technique, up to 1000 or more tissue samples can be composited into a single paraffin block. Tissue microarrays permit high-volume simultaneous analysis of molecular targets at the DNA, mRNA, and protein levels under identical, standardized conditions on a single glass slide, and also provide maximal preservation and utilization of limited and irreplaceable archival tissue samples. This versatile technique facilitates retrospective and prospective human tissue studies, animal tissue studies, and cell line cytospin cell block studies. In this review, we present the technical aspects of TMA construction and sectioning, validation aspects of the technique, TMA advantages and limitations, and a sampling of the broad range of TMA uses in modern neuropathologic clinical diagnosis, research, and education. A specific illustration of the most widely employed and increasingly important TMA application is also presented: confirmation via TMA-based immunohisto-chemistry of the differential expression of a marker (IGFBP2) initially identified by gene expression pro-filing to be overexpressed in glioblastoma.