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A microfluidic device for cancer cell detection

European researchers worked towards a microfluidic-based technology for detecting cancer cells in the blood.
A microfluidic device for cancer cell detection
Cancer cells from metastatic or primary sites often disseminate via blood circulation. These circulating tumour cells (CTCs) could have diagnostic and therapeutic significance if they could be identified and counted in the peripheral blood of patients. However, their rare frequency requires advanced microfluidic devices capable of detecting and filtering CTCs from blood.

The scope of the EU-funded BIOMEDMICROFLUIDICS (Modelling and optimization of microfluidic devices for biomedical applications) project was to incorporate rigorous optimisation techniques in the development of such devices. Researchers developed a computer tool for simulating complex processes inside microfluidic devices. The model comprised various cell phenomena including fluid dynamics, fluid-structure interaction, individual cell movements and their mutual collisions.

Scientists ensured that model design could capture different elastic properties arising from the biology of cells and their mechanical properties. In addition, they modelled adhesion mediated by receptor-ligand bonds where the stiffness of the bonds controlled adhesion.

This model was utilised for the analysis of several types of microfluidic devices and especially for the capture of rare CTCs. Researchers evaluated the impact of haematocrit on CTC trajectories and found that in dense populations the probability of cell adhesion was significantly compromised. Furthermore, to minimise cell damage it is crucial to control cell deformation. To this end, they quantified damage by measuring intracellular calcium concentration, a marker of cell activation.

The computational model was implemented in an open-source scientific package freely available to the scientific community. Long term, apart from diagnosis, implementation of the generated model should enable the design of real time personalised therapies depending on the number of CTCs.

Related information


Microfluidic device, cancer, blood, circulating tumour cells, adhesion, haematocrit, intracellular calcium
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