Finding the elusive cancer cells spreading across the system is no longer a needle in a haystack with this bio chip. One drop blood and it's a trap - that is at least for cancer cells.
Liquid biopsy chip with its 80 test units. (Photo WPI.edu)
Mechanical engineers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have developed this "liquid biopsy chip" to potentially trap and identify metastatic cancer with just a small amount of blood.
Other devices use microfluidic approach which relies on continuous fluid flow with the understanding of its logical operations. But the new technology from WPI are said to be more effective and the sorting method is more efficient as tumor cells can be captured with high precision.
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The chip uses what is called a passive leukocyte depletion strategy. The device has an array of carbon nanotubes at the bottom of its microscopic well. The antibodies attached to the device allow the cancer cells to bind into them selectively based on their surface markers, whether T cells or B cells and their subtypes. What makes the method more useful in the biopsy process is that the device can trap the exosomes, a cancer-based material which other methods can not do.
This new device can be incorporated into simple lab tests to detect early metastasis quickly. With that doctors can provide early targeted treatments for patients without going through a highly invasive method in the long run.
Balaji Panchapakesan, associate professor of mechanical engineering at WPI and director of the Small Systems Laboratory, explained that among the billion of red blood cells and tens of thousands of white cells floating only a tiny portion of them are tumor cells.
Metastasis cancer spreads throughout the body through the bloodstream. When they do and when the cancer fully develops, prognosis is bleak. It is important that we find new methods and efficient ones for early detection for the patients' bigger chance of survival.
The researchers published their study in Nanotechnology