As the list of expressed human genes expands, a major scientific challenge is to understand the molecular events that drive normal tissue morphogenesis and the evolution of pathological lesions in actual tissue. Laser capture microdissection (LCM) has been developed to provide a reliable method to procure pure populations of cells from specific microscopic regions of tissue sections, in one step, under direct visualization. The cells of interest are transferred to a polymer film that is activated by laser pulses. The exact morphology of the procured cells (with intact DNA, RNA and proteins) is retained and held on the transfer film. With the advent of LCM, cDNA libraries can be developed from pure cells obtained directly from stained tissue, and microhybridization arrays of thousands of genes can now be used to examine gene expression in microdissected human tissue biopsies. The fluctuation of expressed genes or alterations in the cellular DNA that correlate with a particular disease stage can ultimately be compared within or between individual patients. Such a fingerprint of gene-expression patterns can provide crucial clues for etiology and might, ultimately, contribute to diagnostic decisions and therapies tailored to the individual patient. Molecules found to be associated with a defined pathological lesion might serve as imaging ot therapeutic targets.