PEMBROKE — A shipping crew was at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke last week to pack up an automated pathology machine used to test brain tissue.
The workers carefully placed the $80,000 machine inside a wooden crate. They double- and triple-checked the package, making sure it was fastened before being shipped 8,000 miles to Malawi.
There, the machine will save lives.
UNCP donated the Leica Bond Max Machine for Immunohistochemistry and In Situ Hybridization to UNC-Chapel Hill’s site in Lilongwe, Malawi.
These particular instruments will allow the laboratory at UNC Project-Malawi to obtain more detailed information about the tumors that are diagnosed in patients there. This information improves the accuracy of the diagnoses the pathologists make, which ensures patients are being treated appropriately.
The machine left for Malawi on July 26.
“Service and collaboration are core values at UNC Pembroke, so I commend Dr. Ben Bahr for seeking out this opportunity to help fulfill an important need,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings. “In addition to maximizing state resources, this partnership allows UNCP to significantly impact lives on the other side of the globe.”
The equipment donation was born out of a collaboration between Bahr, William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at UNCP, and Stephanie Montgomery, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill.
While working together on the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, Bahr noted the machine was underutilized in his laboratory. Months later, Montgomery learned of a need for the machine by UNC-Project-Malawr.
“I think it is important that we make sure this machine is being utilized for the best operation to help people,” Bahr said. “It can be used to train a few students, but it could not be used for our types of brain slice experiments.”
“The impact the donated equipment will have in Malawi is significant,” said Nate Montgomery, with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “The stains performed on these instruments are part of the standard-of-care here in the U.S., but there is only a very limited capacity to do them in Malawi. The instrument donated by Pembroke changes that. This gift will help bring an important tool to a place with far too few resources.”
The Leica machine provides automated staining, which will allow UNC Project-Malawi’s lab technicians to process more specimens. UNC Project-Malawi’s cancer clinics serve half the country’s population, about 8.5 million people, said Satish Gopal, UNC Project-Malawi cancer program director.
“Neither the pathology lab nor immunohistochemistry existed in Lilongwe until UNC-Chapel Hill introduced them in 2012, and immunohistochemistry has now become a routine part of lab operations,” said Gopal. “The automated stainer from UNC Pembroke will allow us to process even more patient specimens with higher efficiency, while freeing up our technicians to do many other vital lab functions.”
Mark Locklear is a public communications specialist for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.