Scientists at IBM's Zurich facility have developed a new silicon probe that can accurately stain tissue sections - on a micrometer scale.

It is believed the innovation will help in discovering new drugs and increasing the accuracy with which diseases can be diagnosed.

According to IBM, the new probe can stain a very small section of a tissue with virtually any relevant biomarker, thus allowing clinicians to stain the same sample more than once.

"This new approach will enable pathologists to stain tissue samples with micrometer precision and easily perform multiple tissue stains on limited samples," said Govind Kaigala, a scientist at IBM's Zurich facility.

Tissue staining is an important aspect of disease diagnosis. It involves using stains or dyes to enhance the contrast in microscopic images. However, excessively strong chemical solutions or overexposure to a solution can overdevelop the sample and lead to faulty results.

The eight millimeter-wide, diamond-shaped probe consists of a silicon micro-fluidic head, with two micro channels at each tip. The tip injects the liquid on the tissue sample's surface, similar to an inkjet printer cartridge.

Unlike a printer cartridge, though, the probe continuously aspirates the liquid to prevent spreading and accumulation on the surface. The probe can also be used to deliver an antibody, with pinpoint precision.

IBM will continue to test and improve on the probe and begin using it in laboratory environments over the next several months. It also plans to explore clinical applications with partners in the field of pathology, the company said in its statement.