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MIT sorts cells with beams of light
Date:12/10/2007

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Separating out particular kinds of cells from a sample could become faster, cheaper and easier thanks to a new system developed by MIT researchers that involves levitating the cells with light.

The system, which can sort up to 10,000 cells on a conventional glass microscope slide, could enable a variety of biological research projects that might not have been feasible before, its inventors say. It could also find applications in clinical testing and diagnosis, genetic screening and cloning research, all of which require the selection of cells with particular characteristics for further testing.

Joel Voldman, an associate professor in MITs Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Joseph Kovac, a student in the department, developed the new system, which is featured as the cover story in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Present methods allow cells to be sorted based on whether or not they emit fluorescent light when mixed with a marker that responds to a particular protein or other compound. The new system allows more precise sorting, separating out cells based not just on the overall average fluorescent response of the whole cell but on responses that occur in specific parts of the cell, such as the nucleus. The system can also pick up responses that vary in how fast they begin or how long they last.

Weve been interested in looking at things inside the cell that either change over time, or are in specific places, Voldman says. Separating out cells with such characteristics cant be done with traditional cell sorting.

For example, if cells differ in how quickly they respond to a particular compound used in the fluorescent labeling, the new system would make it possible to select out the ones that are faster or slower, and see whats different, says Voldman, who also has appointments in MITs Research Laboratory of Electronics and the Microsystems Technology L
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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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