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Aptamer-Enabled Efficient Isolation of Cancer Cells from Whole Blood Using a Microfluidic Device

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posted on 2016-02-21, 13:15 authored by Weian Sheng, Tao Chen, Rahul Kamath, Xiangling Xiong, Weihong Tan, Z. Hugh Fan
Circulating tumor cells (CTC) in the peripheral blood could provide important information for diagnosis of cancer metastasis and monitoring treatment progress. However, CTC are extremely rare in the bloodstream, making their detection and characterization technically challenging. We report here the development of an aptamer-mediated, micropillar-based microfluidic device that is able to efficiently isolate tumor cells from unprocessed whole blood. High-affinity aptamers were used as an alternative to antibodies for cancer cell isolation. The microscope-slide-sized device consists of >59 000 micropillars, which enhanced the probability of the interactions between aptamers and target cancer cells. The device geometry and the flow rate were investigated and optimized by studying their effects on the isolation of target leukemia cells from a cell mixture. The device yielded a capture efficiency of ∼95% with purity of ∼81% at the optimum flow rate of 600 nL/s. Further, we exploited the device for isolating colorectal tumor cells from unprocessed whole blood; as few as 10 tumor cells were captured from 1 mL of whole blood. We also addressed the question of low throughput of a typical microfluidic device by processing 1 mL of blood within 28 min. In addition, we found that ∼93% of the captured cells were viable, making them suitable for subsequent molecular and cellular studies.

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