CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Capitalizing on a cell’s ability to roll along a surface, MIT researchers have developed a simple, inexpensive system to sort different kinds of cells — a process that could result in low-cost tools to test for diseases such as cancer, even in remote locations.
A cheap, small, and easy-to-operate device for detecting cancers would allow more frequent, cheaper, and earlier stage cancer detection. One can imagine such devices available in supermarkets or drug stores. A small blood sample could tell you pretty quickly whether to seek out a doctor. The resulting earlier stage diagnoses will substantially up cure rates.
Notice this result was published in Nano Letters. Advances in biotechnology are increasingly coming from working with very small scale materials and devices. Smaller devices can be orders of magnitude cheaper, faster, reliable, and sensitive.
Rohit Karnik, an MIT assistant professor of mechanical engineering and lead author of a paper on the new finding appearing this week in the journal Nano Letters, said the cell-sorting method was minimally invasive and highly innovative.
“It’s a new discovery,” Karnik said. “Nobody has ever done anything like this before.”
The method relies on the way cells sometimes interact with a surface (such as the wall of a blood vessel) by rolling along it. In the new device, a surface is coated with lines of a material that interacts with the cells, making it seem sticky to specific types of cells. The sticky lines are oriented diagonally to the flow of cell-containing fluid passing over the surface, so as certain kinds of cells respond to the coating they are nudged to one side, allowing them to be separated out.
The device will take 2 years to become usable as a lab research tool and 5 years before use in clinical tests.
Now that the basic principle has been harnessed in the lab, Karnik estimates it may take up to two years to develop into a standard device that could be used for laboratory research purposes. Because of the need for extensive testing, development of a device for clinical use could take about five years, he estimates.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2008 March 09 03:02 PM Biotech Assay Tools|