Development of a rare cell fractionation device: application for cancer detection

IEEE Trans Nanobioscience. 2004 Dec;3(4):251-6. doi: 10.1109/tnb.2004.837903.


Isolating rare cells from biological fluids including whole blood or bone marrow is an interesting biological problem. Characterization of a few metastatic cells from cancer patients for further study is desirable for prognosis/diagnosis. Traditional methods have not proven adequate, due to the compositional complexity of blood, with its large numbers of cell types. To separate individual cells based on their mechanical characteristics, we have developed a series of massively parallel microfabricated sieving device. These devices were constructed with four successively narrower regions of channels numbering approximately 1800 per region. As cells traversed the device, they encountered each region and stopped at a gap width that prohibited passage due to their size. Cultured neuroblastoma cells, when mixed with whole blood and applied to the device, were retained in the 10-microm-wide by 20-microm-deep channels. All other cells migrated to the output. A derivative of the same device was utilized to characterize migration of whole blood. Adult white blood cells were retained at the 2.5-microm-wide by 5-microm-deep channels, while red blood cells passed through these channels. Devices designed to capture rare cells in peripheral circulation for downstream analysis will provide an important tool for diagnosis and treatment.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Separation / instrumentation*
  • Cell Separation / methods
  • Cytapheresis / instrumentation
  • Cytapheresis / methods
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Erythrocytes / cytology*
  • Leukocytes / cytology*
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques / methods
  • Nanotechnology / instrumentation*
  • Nanotechnology / methods
  • Neuroblastoma / blood
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology*
  • Ultrafiltration / instrumentation*
  • Ultrafiltration / methods