Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Microfluidics Device Could Help Diagnose Pancreatic Cancer in Minutes

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Bookmark and Share
This is the first time material larger than a single-celled organism has successfully moved in a microfluidic device.

Pancreatic cancer is a particularly devastating disease. At least 94 percent of patients will die within five years, and in 2013 it was ranked as one of the top 10 deadliest cancers.

Routine screenings for breast, colon and lung cancers have improved treatment and outcomes for patients with these diseases, largely because the cancer can be detected early. But because little is known about how pancreatic cancer behaves, patients often receive a diagnosis when it’s already too late.

University of Washington scientists and engineers are developing a low-cost device that could help pathologists diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and faster. The prototype can perform the basic steps for processing a biopsy, relying on fluid transport instead of human hands to process the tissue. The team presented its initial results this month (February 2014) at the SPIE Photonics West conference and recently filed a patent for this first-generation device and future technology advancements.

“This new process is expected to help the pathologist make a more rapid diagnosis and be able to determine more accurately how invasive the cancer has become, leading to improved prognosis,” said Eric Seibel, a UW research professor of mechanical engineering and director of the department’s Human Photonics Laboratory.

The new instrumentation would essentially automate and streamline the manual, time-consuming process a pathology lab goes through to diagnose cancer. Currently, a pathologist takes a biopsy tissue sample, then sends it to the lab where it’s cut into thin slices, stained and put on slides, then analyzed optically in 2-D for abnormalities.

The UW’s technology would process and analyze whole tissue biopsies for 3-D imaging, which offers a more complete picture of the cellular makeup of a tumor, said Ronnie Das, a UW postdoctoral researcher in bioengineering who is the lead author on a related paper.

“As soon as you cut a piece of tissue, you lose information about it. If you can keep the original tissue biopsy intact, you can see the whole story of abnormal cell growth. You can also see connections, cell morphology and structure as it looks in the body,” Das said.

The research team is building a thick, credit card-sized, flexible device out of silicon that allows a piece of tissue to pass through tiny channels and undergo a series of steps that replicate what happens on a much larger scale in a pathology lab. The device harnesses the properties of microfluidics, which allows tissue to move and stop with ease through small channels without needing to apply a lot of external force. It also keeps clinicians from having to handle the tissue; instead, a tissue biopsy taken with a syringe needle could be deposited directly into the device to begin processing.

Researchers say this is the first time material larger than a single-celled organism has successfully moved in a microfluidic device. This could have implications across the sciences in automating analyses that usually are done by humans.

Das and Chris Burfeind, a UW undergraduate student in mechanical engineering, designed the device to be simple to manufacture and use. They first built a mold using a petri dish and Teflon tubes, then poured a viscous, silicon material into the mold. The result is a small, transparent instrument with seamless channels that are both curved and straight.

The researchers have used the instrument to process a tissue biopsy one step at a time, following the same steps as a pathology lab would. Next, they hope to combine all of the steps into a more robust device – including 3-D imaging – then build and optimize it for use in a lab. Future iterations of the device could include layers of channels that would allow more analyses on a piece of tissue without adding more bulk to the device.

For Burfeind, who started working in Seibel’s lab his sophomore year, the research apprenticeship has been beneficial both for his college experience and future career, and for the lab.

 “I’m getting theory from my professors in class, then applying it to my research here,” Burfeind said. “I see this research as a way to enhance cancer diagnosis and catch it earlier so patients can have a better chance of survival.”

The UW researchers say the technology could be used overseas as an over-the-counter kit that would process biopsies, then send that information to pathologists who could look for signs of cancer from remote locations. Additionally, it could potentially reduce the time it takes to diagnose cancer to a matter of minutes, Das said.

The team is working with Melissa Upton, a pathologist with UW Medicine. The research is funded by the National Science Foundation Bioengineering division and the U.S. Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need program.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

$12-Million Awarded to Study the Human Genome in 4-D
Project seeks to understand how a 6.5 feet of DNA folds to fit inside a cell.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
First Results Describing Sick Sea Star Immune Response
Though millions of sea stars along the West Coast have perished in the past several years from an apparent wasting disease, scientists still don’t know why.
Monday, October 12, 2015
Editing Genes to Create HIV Killers
Seattle scientists have managed to genetically transform human cells in the lab from HIV targets to HIV killers, and the technique could have implications for cancer and other diseases.
Monday, October 05, 2015
A New Single-Molecule Tool to Observe Enzymes at Work
A team of scientists at the University of Washington and the biotechnology company Illumina have created an innovative tool to directly detect the delicate, single-molecule interactions between DNA and enzymatic proteins.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
UW to Invest $37 Million in Nanofabrication Lab
The Washington Nanofabrication Facility is being developed to support start-ups and researchers who can not afford to invest high tech nano production equipment.
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
A Novel Drug to FIght Malaria
An international team of scientists has announced that a new compound to fight malaria is ready for human trials.
Friday, July 17, 2015
Engineering Yeast that Speaks
Scientists at the University of Washington say they have engineered yeast cells that can "talk" to one another, using the plant hormone auxin.
Thursday, July 02, 2015
Plants make Big Decisions with Microscopic Cellular Competition
A team of University of Washington researchers has identified a mechanism that some plant cells use to receive complex and contradictory messages from their neighbours.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Bacteria can Sense their Surroundings
Knowing how environmental signals modulate bacterial behavior could help combat biofouling and antibiotic resistance.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Antibody Pries Loose Bacteria’s Grip
Study finds novel method of improving antibody efficacy.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Dying Cells Can Protect their Stem Cells from Destruction
An SOS signal from dying daughter cells allows their mother stem cells to protect themselves from radiation and chemotherapy damage.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Genetic Errors Linked To Aging Underlie Leukemia That Develops After Cancer Treatment
New research by Daniel Link, MD, and colleagues at The Genome Institute at Washington University has revealed that mutations that accumulate randomly as a person ages can play a role in a fatal form of leukemia that develops after treatment for another cancer.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Genetically Identical Bacteria Can Behave in Radically Different Ways
Although a population of bacteria may be genetically identical, individual bacteria within that population can act in radically different ways.
Friday, January 03, 2014
Depletion of ‘Traitor’ Immune Cells Slows Cancer Growth in Mice
When a person has cancer, some of the cells in his or her body have changed and are growing uncontrollably.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Breakthrough in Detecting DNA Mutations Could Help Treat Tuberculosis and Cancer
The slightest variation in a sequence of DNA can have profound effects.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
Revolutionary Technologies Developed to Improve Outcomes for Lung Cancer Patients
Breath test to detect lung cancer brings oxygen directly to the wound.
NIH Supports New Studies to Find Alzheimer’s Biomarkers in Down Syndrome
Initiative will track dementia onset, progress in Down syndrome volunteers.
Dementia Linked to Deficient DNA Repair
Mutant forms of breast cancer factor 1 (BRCA1) are associated with breast and ovarian cancers but according to new findings, in the brain the normal BRCA1 gene product may also be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Using Drug-Susceptible Parasites to Fight Drug Resistance
Researchers at the University of Georgia have developed a model for evaluating a potential new strategy in the fight against drug-resistant diseases.
Boosting Breast Cancer Treatment
To more efficiently treat breast cancer, scientists have been researching molecules that selectively bind to cancer cells and deliver a substance that can kill the tumor cells, for several years.
New Gene Map Reveals Cancer’s Achilles’ Heel
Team of researchers switches off almost 18,000 genes
New Discovery Sheds Light on Disease Risk
Gaps between genes interact to influence the risk of acquiring disease.
How Cells ‘Climb’ to Build Fruit Fly Tracheas
Mipp1 protein helps cells sprout “fingers” for gripping.
Research Finding Could Lead to Targeted Therapies for IBD
Findings published online in Cell Reports.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos