Jellyfish capture food particles floating by with their long, sticky tentacles.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston built a microfluidic chip with long, trailing strands of repeating DNA sequences that latch on to cancer cells’ specific proteins as they float by in the blood stream.
Scientists arranged the trailing strands in a herringbone pattern similar to the repeating patterns of sticky structures on the jellyfish.
Jeffrey Karp, study author says, “What most people don’t realize is that it is the metastasis that kills, not the primary tumor. Our device has the potential to catch these cells in the act with its ‘tentacles’ before they may seed a new tumor in a distant organ.”
Other microfluidic devices that rely on antibodies have been developed in the past with similar hopes, but weren’t capable of capturing large entities, such as whole cells, in the blood. Nor were they able to easily release cells so they could be studied in the lab, as does the Boston device.
In addition to diagnostic applications, the device could also be used therapeutically to monitor cancer, provide details on how a tumor responds to treatment, and capture other cells in the blood, such as viruses, bacteria and fetal cells.
Source: SmartPlanet Daily, November 13, 2012 iee spectrum, November 13, 2012 Study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 2012