If you’ve ever had a scratch on your cornea (the surface of your eye), your eye doctor probably used a special eye drop to see the scratch more clearly.
This eye drop is called sodium fluorescein dye, and it highlights scratches in the eye by making them appear to glow a bright green when the eye doctor shines a special blue light on it.
Dr. Jeffrey Bruce, Director of Columbia’s Bartoli Brain Tumor Research Laboratory and Co-Director of the Brain Tumor Center, has been researching ways in which this green glowing dye can help neurosurgeons remove brain tumors.
Glioblastoma is the most common type of malignant [cancerous] brain tumor in adults. It’s also one of the most difficult types of tumors to remove surgically. This is because a glioblastoma tumor grows tendrils that invade healthy brain tissue, making it difficult to remove all of the tumor. In fact, it can be hard for the neurosurgeon to tell the difference between glioblastoma tendrils and healthy brain tissue. This is a problem, because the neurosurgeon’s goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible, without removing any healthy brain tissue.
But sodium fluorescein dye can help solve this problem. When the dye is injected into a patient’s bloodstream before surgery (through an IV) it is absorbed by the glioblastoma tumor—but not by the healthy brain tissue.
This is because the normal brain tissue is protected by a kind of filter called the blood-brain barrier. This barrier won’t let the dye cross from the bloodstream into the healthy tissue. But glioblastoma tumors disrupt this barrier, so the dye crosses into the tumor easily.
When the neurosurgeon uses a special blue light filter on the microscope in the operating room, the glioblastoma cells glow almost neon green against the healthy brain tissue. Now the neurosurgeon can see the tumor better and can remove more of it.
Dr. Bruce recently gave a webinar, or online presentation, for the Congress of Neurological Surgeons on the uses of fluorescein dye in glioblastoma surgery. He spoke about the safety of using the dye and how it can be used to allow the surgeon to remove more of the tumor than would otherwise be possible.
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