Researchers Develop Acoustic Device to Detect Tumor Cells
Researchers from MIT have created a new, dime-sized acoustic device that can detect tumor cells in the blood of cancer patients.
Developed in collaboration with scientists at Carnegie Mellon and Pennsylvania State University, the device uses sound waves to separate tumor cells from the white blood cells needed to protect the immune system.
According to an MIT report, this new device—which sorts cells as they move through a channel—was designed to overcome the inefficiencies of existing devices that rely on similar technology. Researchers tested their design in a study appearing in a recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Per the report:
Researchers first tested the system with plastic beads, finding that it could separate beads with diameters of 9.9 and 7.3 microns (thousandths of a millimeter) with about 97 percent accuracy. They also devised a computer simulation that can predict a cell’s trajectory through the channel based on its size, density, and compressibility, as well as the angle of the sound waves, allowing them to customize the device to separate different types of cells. To test whether the device could be useful for detecting circulating tumor cells, the researchers tried to separate breast cancer cells known as MCF-7 cells from white blood cells.
Results indicate that the device successfully separated approximately 71 percent of the breast cancer cells. According to researchers, the findings suggest that the device might be useful in predicting cancer’s spread.
“If you can detect these rare circulating tumor cells, it’s a good way to study cancer biology and diagnose whether the primary cancer has moved to a new site to generate metastatic tumors,” senior author Subra Suresh said in the report. “This method is a step forward for detection of circulating tumor cells in the body. It has the potential to offer a safe and effective new tool for cancer researchers, clinicians and patients.”