Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > New particle-sorting method breaks speed records: Discovery could lead to new ways of detecting cancer cells or purifying contaminated water

This image shows an example of a rigid epoxy microfluidic device, similar to those used for the new high-throughput system, on an optical microscope.

Image: John Friedah
This image shows an example of a rigid epoxy microfluidic device, similar to those used for the new high-throughput system, on an optical microscope.

Image: John Friedah

Abstract:
Researchers compare the processing of biological fluid samples with searching for a needle in a haystack only in this case, the haystack could be diagnostic samples, and the needle might be tumor cells present in just parts-per-million concentrations. Now, a new way of processing these samples could make such detections possible in real time, according to a team from MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and Harvard Medical School.

New particle-sorting method breaks speed records: Discovery could lead to new ways of detecting cancer cells or purifying contaminated water

Cambridge, MA | Posted on July 1st, 2014

The team's surprising discovery is described in a paper in the journal Nature Communications. The technique could allow cells to be sorted while hurtling through the channels of a microfluidic device at speeds faster than those of race cars, the authors say at least 100 times faster than any existing system

Normally, fluid flowing through a narrow channel at such high velocity would break up into a chaotic, turbulent flow, making any sorting or identification of cells impossible. But the research team found ways of eliminating this turbulence and even focusing the flow, driving the particles into single file within the channel.

"If you're trying to find a needle in a haystack, it's a lot easier if the needle is right in the middle of the haystack," says co-author Gareth McKinley, the School of Engineering Professor of Teaching Innovation in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering. With this method, that's essentially what you get: In a process the team calls "inertio-elastic flow focusing," McKinley says, the flow itself helps concentrate the particles that are of interest. "The bigger particles go to the center first," he says.

In searching for tumor cells in a large volume of fluid for example, in a fluid sample drained from a patient's lungs, or in peritoneal fluid there may be millions of cells, including those from the tumor, in a volume of up to a few liters; these cells' shapes, numbers, and biophysical characteristics could make them indicators of cancer.

The researchers showed that by adjusting the flow properties of the fluid sample, they could concentrate all of the larger particles at the center of the flow. They adapted a high-speed, pulsed-laser imaging system to take snapshots of the shapes, sizes, and orientations of the particles as they fly through the device.

Ultimately, the researchers say, the work might lead to a compact, bedside device that could take a blood sample from a patient and provide diagnostic information immediately, rather than requiring processing at a lab, which can take hours or even days.

The new technique might have other uses, the researchers say. The ability to separate tiny nanoscale particles according to size at high speed "could be extremely important for a broad range of clinical applications and biological applications," says co-author Mehmet Toner of Harvard Medical School and MGH.

Toner explains that the basic concept of flow focusing in microchannels, at low-flow rates, is a very active research field, with at least 50 different groups around the world studying the basic physics of flow focusing and exploring a broad range of applications. This new use of the technique for extremely high-speed processing could unleash a similar surge of interest, he says.

In describing how a fluid moves through a channel, the key flow parameter is called the Reynolds number a quantity that combines the speed of the flow, the size of the channel, and the viscosity of the liquid. Experimental observation shows that a fluid doesn't flow smoothly at a Reynolds number greater than about 2,400, Toner says, before breaking up into turbulence.

But the team found that by adding a minuscule amount of hyaluronic acid a biopolymer to the fluid, flow rates could be increased to a Reynolds number of 10,000 without introducing turbulence. Indeed, adding the polymer changes the flow properties of the fluid itself, giving rise to fluid viscoelasticity. Measuring how important this effect is in a fluid requires a new parameter, called the Weissenberg number; by understanding the relative magnitude of these two key parameters, the researchers were able to examine flow patterns that had never been studied before.

Doing so required finding a new way of making the microfluidic channels; existing soft materials used for microfluidic devices would not have withstood the high pressures associated with such flow rates. "At that kind of pressure, they would just explode," Toner says, "so we had to develop a rigid device that was still optically transparent."

In the new system, liquid can hurtle through a microfluidic channel just 50 micrometers across about half the width of a human hair at peak speeds of more than 400 mph, without turbulence. By using flashes of laser light just 10 billionths of a second in duration, the team was able to image the size, shape, and orientation of cells as they moved through the device and were squeezed by the effects of the fluid additive.

Hyaluronic acid is a biological derivative it acts as a lubricant in the knee that is harmless to biological samples, Toner says. And it turns out that at great speed, the focusing mechanism grows even more effective. "We didn't imagine that you could get focusing at such rates," McKinley says. The new system can achieve flow speeds up to 100 times greater than in existing microfluidic systems.

While the team suggests numerous possible applications in diagnostics, water purification, or even industrial separation of materials, such as for biofuel production, all such possibilities remain speculative at this point, Toner says.

Howard Stone, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University who was not involved in this research, says the work "appears original and significant." He adds, "The ability to control focusing of particles by adding small amounts of hyaluronic acid seems flexible and very interesting. Moreover, the authors have demonstrated the effect at high Reynolds numbers and so at high speeds and flow rates. This work will be of interest to many people and is likely to find applications in several fields."

The team also included MIT graduate students Eugene Lim and Thomas Ober and five others.

####

For more information, please click here

Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technology

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Ultracold atom waves may shed light on rogue ocean killers: Rice quantum experiments probe underlying physics of rogue ocean waves April 27th, 2017

Looking for the quantum frontier: Beyond classical computing without fault-tolerance? April 27th, 2017

Metal nanoparticles induced visible-light photocatalysis: Mechanisms, applications, ways of promoting catalytic activity and outlook April 27th, 2017

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals to Webcast Fiscal 2017 Second Quarter Results April 27th, 2017

Microfluidics/Nanofluidics

Using light to propel water : With new method, MIT engineers can control and separate fluids on a surface using only visible light April 25th, 2017

Nano-SPEARs gently measure electrical signals in small animals: Rice University's tiny needles simplify data gathering to probe diseases, test drugs April 17th, 2017

Videos/Movies

Wood filter removes toxic dye from water April 21st, 2017

Making Batteries From Waste Glass Bottles: UCR researchers are turning glass bottles into high performance lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and personal electronics April 19th, 2017

Nano-SPEARs gently measure electrical signals in small animals: Rice University's tiny needles simplify data gathering to probe diseases, test drugs April 17th, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Ultracold atom waves may shed light on rogue ocean killers: Rice quantum experiments probe underlying physics of rogue ocean waves April 27th, 2017

Metal nanoparticles induced visible-light photocatalysis: Mechanisms, applications, ways of promoting catalytic activity and outlook April 27th, 2017

Graphene holds up under high pressure: Used in filtration membranes, ultrathin material could help make desalination more productive April 24th, 2017

Nanoparticle vaccine shows potential as immunotherapy to fight multiple cancer types April 24th, 2017

Discoveries

Ultracold atom waves may shed light on rogue ocean killers: Rice quantum experiments probe underlying physics of rogue ocean waves April 27th, 2017

Looking for the quantum frontier: Beyond classical computing without fault-tolerance? April 27th, 2017

Metal nanoparticles induced visible-light photocatalysis: Mechanisms, applications, ways of promoting catalytic activity and outlook April 27th, 2017

Geoffrey Beach: Drawn to explore magnetism: Materials researcher is working on the magnetic memory of the future April 25th, 2017

Announcements

Ultracold atom waves may shed light on rogue ocean killers: Rice quantum experiments probe underlying physics of rogue ocean waves April 27th, 2017

Looking for the quantum frontier: Beyond classical computing without fault-tolerance? April 27th, 2017

Metal nanoparticles induced visible-light photocatalysis: Mechanisms, applications, ways of promoting catalytic activity and outlook April 27th, 2017

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals to Webcast Fiscal 2017 Second Quarter Results April 27th, 2017

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

Ultracold atom waves may shed light on rogue ocean killers: Rice quantum experiments probe underlying physics of rogue ocean waves April 27th, 2017

Looking for the quantum frontier: Beyond classical computing without fault-tolerance? April 27th, 2017

Metal nanoparticles induced visible-light photocatalysis: Mechanisms, applications, ways of promoting catalytic activity and outlook April 27th, 2017

Video captures bubble-blowing battery in action: Researchers propose how bubbles form, could lead to smaller lithium-air batteries April 26th, 2017

Energy

Using light to propel water : With new method, MIT engineers can control and separate fluids on a surface using only visible light April 25th, 2017

SUNY Polytechnic Institute Announces Total of 172 Teams Selected to Compete in Solar in Your Community Challenge: Teams from 40 states, plus Washington, DC, 2 Territories, and 4 American Indian Reservations, Will Deploy Solar in Underserved Communities April 20th, 2017

Better living through pressure: Functional nanomaterials made easy April 19th, 2017

Shedding light on the absorption of light by titanium dioxide April 14th, 2017

Water

Using light to propel water : With new method, MIT engineers can control and separate fluids on a surface using only visible light April 25th, 2017

Graphene holds up under high pressure: Used in filtration membranes, ultrathin material could help make desalination more productive April 24th, 2017

Wood filter removes toxic dye from water April 21st, 2017

Shedding light on the absorption of light by titanium dioxide April 14th, 2017

Industrial

Better living through pressure: Functional nanomaterials made easy April 19th, 2017

Rare-earths become water-repellent only as they age March 22nd, 2017

CRMGroup in Belgium uses a Deben three point bending stage in the development of new steel & coated steel products for automotive and other industrial applications March 21st, 2017

Imaging the inner workings of a sodium-metal sulfide battery for first time: Understanding how the structural and chemical makeup of the material changes during the charge/discharge process could help scientists advance battery design for future energy storage needs March 9th, 2017

Research partnerships

California Research Alliance by BASF establishes more than 25 research projects in three years April 26th, 2017

Better living through pressure: Functional nanomaterials made easy April 19th, 2017

Shedding light on the absorption of light by titanium dioxide April 14th, 2017

AIM Photonics Presents Cutting-Edge Integrated Photonics Technology Developments to Packed House at OFC 2017, the Optical Networking and Communication Conference & Exhibition April 11th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project