A Harvard bioengineer and an MIT aeronautical engineer have created a new device that can detect single cancer cells in a blood sample, potentially allowing doctors to quickly determine whether cancer has spread from its original site.
The microfluidic device, described in the March 17 online edition of the journal Small, is about the size of a dime, and could also detect viruses such as HIV. It could eventually be developed into low-cost tests for doctors to use in developing countries where expensive diagnostic equipment is hard to come by, says Mehmet Toner, professor of biomedical engineering at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.
Toner built an earlier version of the device four years ago. In that original version, blood taken from a patient flows past tens of thousands of tiny silicon posts coated with antibodies that stick to tumor cells. Any cancer cells that touch the posts become trapped. However, some cells might never encounter the posts at all.
Toner thought if the posts were porous instead of solid, cells could flow right through them, making it more likely they would stick. To achieve that, he enlisted the help of Brian Wardle, an MIT associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and an expert in designing nano-engineered advanced composite materials to make stronger aircraft parts.
Out of that collaboration came the new microfluidic device, studded with carbon nanotubes, that collects cancer cells eight times better than the original version.
Captured by nanotubes
Circulating tumor cells (cancer cells that have broken free from the original tumor) are normally very hard to detect, because there are so few of them — usually only several cells per 1-milliliter sample of blood, which can contain tens of billions of normal blood cells. However, detecting these breakaway cells is an important way to determine whether a cancer has metastasized.
“Of all deaths from cancer, 90 percent are not the result of cancer at the primary site. They’re from tumors that spread from the original site,” Wardle says.
When designing advanced materials, Wardle often uses carbon nanotubes — tiny, hollow cylinders whose walls are lattices of carbon atoms. Assemblies of the tubes are highly porous: A forest of carbon nanotubes, which contains 10 billion to 100 billion carbon nanotubes per square centimeter, is less than 1 percent carbon and 99 percent air. This leaves plenty of space for fluid to flow through.
The MIT/Harvard team placed various geometries of carbon nanotube forest into the microfluidic device. As in the original device, the surface of each tube can be decorated with antibodies specific to cancer cells. However, because the fluid can go through the forest geometries as well as around them, there is much greater opportunity for the target cells or particles to get caught.
The researchers can customize the device by attaching different antibodies to the nanotubes’ surfaces. Changing the spacing between the nanotube geometric features also allows them to capture different sized objects — from tumor cells, about a micron in diameter, down to viruses, which are only 40 nm.
The researchers are now beginning to work on tailoring the device for HIV diagnosis. Toner’s original cancer-cell-detecting device is now being tested in several hospitals and may be commercially available within the next few years.
Rashid Bashir, director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says that the ability to filter specific particles, cells or viruses from a blood sample so they can be analyzed is a critical step towards creating handheld diagnostic devices.
“Anything you can do to improve capture efficiency, or anything novel you can do to get the particles to interact with a surface more effectively, will help with sample preparation,” says Bashir, who was not part of the research team.
Caroline McCall | EurekAlert!
Study tracks inner workings of the brain with new biosensor
16.08.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Foods of the future
15.08.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
16.08.2018 | Life Sciences
16.08.2018 | Earth Sciences
16.08.2018 | Life Sciences