Sorting cells with sound waves
Researchers from MIT, Pennsylvania State University, and Carnegie Mellon University have devised a new way to separate cells by exposing them to sound waves as they flow through a tiny channel. Their device, about the size of a dime, could be used to detect the extremely rare tumor cells that circulate in cancer patients’ blood, helping doctors predict whether a tumor is going to spread.
Separating cells with sound offers a gentler alternative to existing cell-sorting technologies, which require tagging the cells with chemicals or exposing them to stronger mechanical forces that may damage them.
"Acoustic pressure is very mild and much smaller in terms of forces and disturbance to the cell. This is a most gentle way to separate cells, and there’s no artificial labeling necessary," says Ming Dao, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and one of the senior authors of the paper, which appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
X. Ding, Z. Peng, S.-C. S. Lin, M. Geri, S. Li, P. Li, Y. Chen, M. Dao, S. Suresh, T. J. Huang. Cell separation using tilted-angle standing surface acoustic waves. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1413325111
Researchers from MIT, Pennsylvania State University, and Carnegie Mellon University have devised a new way to separate cells by exposing them to sound waves as they flow through a tiny channel. Credit: Illustration Christine Daniloff/MIT