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DNA Hydrogel with Aptamer-Toehold-Based Recognition, Cloaking, and Decloaking of Circulating Tumor Cells for Live Cell Analysis

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posted on 03.08.2017, 00:00 by Ping Song, Dekai Ye, Xiaolei Zuo, Jiang Li, Jianbang Wang, Huajie Liu, Michael T. Hwang, Jie Chao, Shao Su, Lihua Wang, Jiye Shi, Lianhui Wang, Wei Huang, Ratnesh Lal, Chunhai Fan
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) contain molecular information on the primary tumor and can be used for predictive cancer diagnostics. Capturing rare live CTCs and their quantification in whole blood remain technically challenging. Here we report an aptamer-trigger clamped hybridization chain reaction (atcHCR) method for in situ identification and subsequent cloaking/decloaking of CTCs by porous DNA hydrogels. These decloaked CTCs were then used for live cell analysis. In our design, a DNA staple strand with aptamer-toehold biblocks specifically recognizes epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) on the CTC surface that triggers subsequent atcHCR via toehold-initiated branch migration. Porous DNA hydrogel based-cloaking of single/cluster of CTCs allows capturing of living CTCs directly with minimal cell damage. The ability to identify a low number of CTCs in whole blood by DNA hydrogel cloaking would allow high sensitivity and specificity for diagnosis in clinically relevant settings. More significantly, decloaking of CTCs using controlled and defined chemical stimuli can release living CTCs without damages for subsequent culture and live cell analysis. We expect this liquid biopsy tool to open new powerful and effective routes for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics.