New maze-inspired chip developed to aid monitoring of cancer

Engineering

A new chip with a design inspired by a classical labyrinth has been developed to aid the monitoring of cancer.

Created by the University of Michigan, the chip is etched with fluid channels that send blood samples through a hydrodynamic maze, allowing rare circulating cancer cells to be separated out into a relatively clean stream for analysis.

“Scientists have developed a labyrinth-inspired chip that could be used to help monitor aggressive cancer stem cells.“

This is achieved simply by harnessing the differing physical effects and forces exerted upon cells of different sizes as they move around the curves and corners of the maze, separating out the larger cancer cells from the smaller white blood cells.

Studies showed that the number of white blood cells contaminating the cancer cell sample could be reduced by ten times by running the captured portion of the blood through a second labyrinth chip, taking only five extra minutes.

Max Wicha, professor of oncology at Michigan Medicine, said: "We think that this may be a way to monitor patients in clinical trials. Rather than just counting the cells, by capturing them, we can perform molecular analysis so know what we can target with treatments."

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