Elisabeth Manville
Feb 22, 2012

New microfluidic device makes it easier to isolate cells

Scientists at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a microfluidic device that can rapidly isolate cells. It is sometimes necessary to sort through billions of cells to collect rare cells such as tumor cells or stem cells, which can be a difficult task. Current technology uses antibodies to separate out the targeted cells, but for this process to work the antibodies and cells must come in contact with each other. The new device guides the flow of fluid to the bottom of a channel, bringing cells to the antibodies. This new design was made possible through the utilization of a soft membrane with nanoscale pores, which separates two adjacent microchannels. “Considerable validation and testing will be necessary before this early-stage device can be deployed in the clinic,” said Mehmet Toner, an author of the study. “Nevertheless, this novel approach may enable exciting diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities that are not feasible using existing technologies.”