Separating Cancer Cells from Normal Cells -- COMPAMED Trade Fair
photo: channel
The design of this channel causes
a cancer cell to move from right
to left through the series of
“ratchets”; © Northwestern Univ.

Based on this method, they have proposed that cancer cells possibly could be sequestered permanently in a sort of "cancer trap" made of implantable and biodegradable materials.

The vast majority of cancer deaths are due to metastasis, the spread of cancer cells from its primary site to other parts of the body. These metastatic cells tend to move more than their non-metastatic variants but this movement is poorly understood.

The demonstrated device, which takes advantage of a physical principle called ratcheting, is a very tiny system of channels for cell locomotion. Each channel is less than a tenth of a millimeter wide. The asymmetric obstacles inside these channels direct cell movement along a preferred direction.

"We have demonstrated a principle that offers an unconventional way to fight metastasis, a very different approach from other methods, such as chemotherapy," said Bartosz Grzybowski, who is associate professor of chemical and biological engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. "These are fundamental studies so the method needs to be optimized, but the idea has promise for a new approach to cancer therapy."

To create the channels, the researchers patterned cell-adhesive and cell-repellant chemical compounds onto a substrate. The cells stayed out of the repellant areas and localized onto the "ratchet" channels, which then directed the cells' movements.

Grzybowski and his colleagues took this knowledge one critical step farther: they designed channels that successfully moved the cells of two types - notably, cancerous and non-cancerous - in opposite directions and thus partly sorted them out.; Source: Northwestern University