Home » Uncategorized » New Device Uses nanotubes to capture Tumor Cells speedily

Scientists working at MIT and Harvard have devised a new tool that can identify individual cancer cells within a blood sample.

Mehmet Toner, leader of the research group and professor of biomedical engineering at the Harvard Medical School, and Brian Wardle, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, have invented a device that will allow doctors identify cancer cells and their metastasis.

It is difficult to isolate circulating cancer cells because a 1-milliliter sample of blood, which has tens of billions of normal blood cells, only contains a few number of circulating tumor cells.

To solve this problem, Toner invented a new microfluidic device that can detect these circulating tumor cells. He originally developed the device four years ago, and it worked by allowing a patient’s blood sample to travel past tens of thousands of little silicon posts that are covered with antibodies. These antibodies stick to tumor cells, and any cancer cells that touch the silicon posts are caught and held in place. The problem with this prototype was that certain cells might never come in contact with the silicon posts at all.

Toner has since made many changes to the device with the help of Wardle. The new device is eight times more accurate than the original device. The microfluidic device now uses porous posts instead of those that are solid, which were made using carbon nanotubes. The carbon nanotubes are small, hollow cylinders that have walls made of carbon atom lattices. A “forest” of these nanotubes have 10 billion to 100 billion carbon nanotubes per square centimeter, and are 99 percent air and less than 1 percent carbon.

Similar to the original device, these carbon nanotubes are coated with antibodies that capture particular tumour cells. The device can also be customized so that it can catch others such as tumor cellsĀ and viruses.

The porous posts allow cells to run through them, much like a filter, offering greater chance of catching the cells researchers are looking for.

Toner and Wardle’s new device is currently being evaluated in hospitals and is expected to be made available commercially within the next few years.

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