Wednesday 12 May 2021 - 11:40:58 am

NYU Abu Dhabi develops Integrated Micro-Fluidic Probe for efficiently isolating cancer cells from blood samples in multiplexed manner


ABU DHABI, 20th April, 2021 (WAM) -- A team of researchers at NYU Abu Dhabi have developed a new microfluidic system to isolate cancer cells from blood samples to prevent the spread of cancerous cells and analyse them.

The survival rate of cancer patients can drop to ten percent or less during metastasis, the spread of cancerous cells to create secondary tumours, therefore, cancer must be detected and treated before metastasis occurs, or at least in its early stages.

To spread the cancer, messenger cells known as Circulating Tumour Cells, or CTCs, break off of the original tumour and flow through the bloodstream to create a secondary growth. The researchers, led by Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering and Principal Investigator at NYU Mohammad A. Qasaimeh, have developed a new microfluidic system, called the Herringbone Microfluidic Probe (HB-MFP) that effectively isolates both CTCs and clusters of CTCs from blood samples of cancer patients for easier and more insightful analysis.

In a new study titled Herringbone Microfluidic Probe for Multiplexed Affinity-Capture of Prostate Circulating Tumour Cells, Qasaimeh and his team presented the process of creating the HB-MFP tool, which utilises different types of bio-recognition molecules to identify and isolate cells from blood samples. The HB-MFP works in an open configuration without involving the concept of closed-channels, which eliminates several technical challenges with classical microfluidics. As a result, the HB-MFP is mobile and scans over the capture substrate that is decorated with different bio-recognition receptors. For an analogy, the HB-MFP works like a pen writing on a board underwater and with no contact, where the ink is the patient’s blood sample and the board is the bio-functionalised substrate for CTCs capture.

In one millilitre of a patient’s blood sample, only a few CTCs exist within billions of healthy red and white blood cells. Using prostate cancer blood samples, the HB-MFP efficiently isolated CTCs with counts ranging from as low as 6 CTCs/mL (localised cancer patients) to as high as 280 CTCs/mL (metastatic cancer patients). In addition, clusters of CTCs as large as a group of 50 cells were successfully arrested. These new findings are published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

"The analysis of the number, antigen expression levels, and sizes of captured CTCs potentially holds great promise to serve as a diagnostic and prognostic tool for prostate cancer," commented Ayoub Glia, the first author and a PhD candidate at the Qasaimeh Group.

Physical examinations and measuring prostate-specific antigen (PSA) serum levels are the two standards for early prostate cancer detection. However, these procedures have shown to be inaccurate and invasive. Liquid biopsy approaches, a diagnosis tool using blood samples, requires small sample volumes and offers high precision, thus achieving higher sensitivity at a lower cost.

"The HB-MFP leads the way for more efficient liquid biopsies and can be adapted to other types of cancers, such as breast cancer and lung cancer, by slight customisations. We hope that our work will help make early diagnostic tools more effective and accurate," Qasaimeh said.

 

WAM/Esraa Ismail/Rasha Abubaker