Looking for circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in a blood sample is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Typically, the CTCs are about one in every one billion blood cells in the sample.
Now researchers from Penn State, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon University have developed a new device that can rapidly and gently separate CTCs from cancer patients' blood samples.
The micro fluidic device has a primary channel through which a blood sample is pumped through. On the sides outside of the channel are two acoustic transducers that create finely tuned standing sound waves in the sample as it passes by.
The channel itself has a sloping shape that works with the tilted-angle sound waves to help CTCs move toward one edge while letting all the other cells trend toward the other edge. This allows the cells to separate quickly and without any significant disturbance to their vitality, allowing them to be used in the pathology lab to analyze the existing cancer.
The research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.