There are several ways that doctors can spot cancer cells, but given that there are billions, if not trillions of cells, this could take a while, and could slow down the treatment process, or in some instances doctors might miss it entirely. However thanks to efforts by researchers at the University of Michigan (via Engadget), that could change thanks to this chip.
As you can see in the photo above, researchers have developed a chip with a maze-like pattern. This is a microfluidic chip that can apparently help to separate cancer cells from the rest of your bloodstream. This is thanks to the use of physics where the curves will help to push the larger cancer cells forwards, while the smaller, regular cells will cling to the walls.
According to the researchers, “The labyrinth riffs on the spiral, sorting the blood’s contents according to the sizes of the cells, with smaller white and red blood cells accumulating in different parts of the fluid channel. A number of forces are at play: on the inside of a curve, eddies push particles away from the wall. The larger cancer cells are pushed a bit harder than the smaller white blood cells. At the outside of the curve, smaller particles feel more drawn to the wall.”
This method is also said to be faster than conventional methods and can take minutes to pinpoint the cancerous cells. This method can even be refined further simply by adding another chip. At the moment this chip is being used in clinical trials to help isolate cancer cells from patients with an aggressive form of breast cancer.