The UBC device – about the size of a nine-volt battery – allows scientists to simultaneously analyze 300 cells individually by routing fluid carrying cells through microscopic tubes and valves. Once isolated into their separate chambers, the cells’ RNA can be extracted and replicated for further analysis.
By enabling such “single-cell analysis,” the device could accelerate genetic research and hasten the use of far more detailed tests for diagnosing cancer.
Single-cell analysis is emerging as the gold standard of genetic research because tissue samples, even those taken from a single tumour, contain a mixture of normal cells and various types of cancer cells – the most important of which may be present in only very small numbers and impossible to distinguish.
So standard genetic tests, which require large numbers of cells, capture only an average “composite picture” of thousands or millions of different cells – obscuring their true nature and the interactions between them.
“It’s like trying to trying to understand what makes a strawberry different from a raspberry by studying a blended fruit smoothie,” says Carl Hansen, an assistant professor in the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy and the Centre for High-Throughput Biology, who led the team that developed the device.
The device, described and validated in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was developed by Hansen’s team, in collaboration with researchers from BC Cancer Agency and the Centre for Translational and Applied Genomics.
The device’s ease of use and cost-effectiveness arise from its integration of almost the entire process of cell analysis – not just separating the cells, but mixing them with chemical reagents to highlight their genetic code and analyzing the results by measuring fluorescent light emitted from the reaction. Now all of that can be done on the chip.
“Single-cell genetic analysis is vital in a host of areas, including stem cell research and advanced cancer biology and diagnostics,” Hansen says. “But until now, it has been too costly to become widespread in research, and especially for use in health care. This technology, and other approaches like it, could radically change the way we do both basic and applied biomedical research, and would make single-cell analysis a more plausible option for treating patients – allowing clinicians to distinguish various cancers from one another and tailor their treatments accordingly.”
The research was funded by Genome BC, Genome Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Terry Fox Foundation, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
Brian Kladko | EurekAlert!
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
24.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences