Enabling liquid biopsies for cancer
The Problem Conducting a biopsy is a critical step in diagnosing cancer. Current techniques typically require a surgical intervention to collect tissue samples, an invasive procedure with high-risk.
The Solution What if, instead, you could simply do a blood test? The essential step of a "liquid biopsy" is the ability to capture the "circulating tumor cells" or CTC's from a blood sample. My challenge was to build such a device to capture these CTC's.
The device had 2 core components:
i) Micro-fluidic Platform: Using silicone micro-machining and PDMS micro-fluidics I designed a device that would enable a suitable flow rate under pressure with parallel channels.
ii) Optical Detection: I designed and built a fluorescence microscope to detect when the CTC's pass through the micro-fluidic device. A visual trigger would automatically switch valves in the device to capture the CTC.
The Impact The device was successfully prototyped (after many-many tries!) and tested across multiple scenarios. The preliminary results were used by the Manalis lab to win the National Institute of Health RO1, a 5 year grant for cutting-edge research.