Wyss Founding Director, Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., and Wyss Postdoctoral Fellow Joo Kang, Ph.D., led the research team. Ingber is the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Vascular Biology Program at Children's Hospital Boston, and Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Kang is a Research Fellow at Childrens Hospital. Also on the team were Wyss Postdoctoral Fellow Mathumai Kanapathipillai; Childrens Hospital Research Fellow Silva Krause and Research Associate Heather Tobin; and Akiko Mammoto, an Instructor in Surgery at HMS and Childrens Hospital.
This novel approach for capturing and culturing CTCs combines micromagnetics and microfluidics within a cell-separation device, about the size of a credit card, in which microfluidic channels have been molded into a hard clear polymer. As blood flows through these channels, magnetic beads that have been coated to selectively stick to the CTCs are used to separate them from the other cells in the blood. The dimensions of the channels have been designed to protect CTCs from mechanical stresses that might alter their structure or biochemistry, as well as to maximize the number of CTCs that can be captured.
In the lab, the new approach demonstrated extremely high efficiency by capturing more than 90 percent of CTCs from the blood of mice with breast cancer. Of particular significance was the fact that the captured CTCs were able to be grown and expanded in culture. These intact living tumor cells could be used for additional testing and molecular analysis, for example, in screening drugs to meet the personal needs of individual patients in the future. Further testing found that the device is sensitive enough to detect the sudden increases in the number of CTCs that signal a cancers metastatic transition and could therefore alert clinicians to possible disease progression.
The Wyss Institute/Childrens Hospital team carried out their studies with one common type of breast cancer. But the same device could be used to address a wide range of tumor types as well as applications beyond cancer, such as collecting circulating stem cells or endothelial progenitor cells from the blood and growing them for use in organ repair, in the future.
About the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University (http://wyss.harvard.edu) uses Natures design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world. Working as an alliance among Harvards Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Arts & Sciences, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Womens Hospital, Childrens Hospital Boston, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and Boston University, the Institute crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers to engage in high-risk research that leads to transformative technological breakthroughs. By emulating Natures principles for self-organizing and self-regulating, Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing. These technologies are translated into commercial products and therapies through collaborations with clinical investigators, corporate alliances, and new start-ups.