A team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) scientists has developed a new microfluidic tool for quickly and accurately isolating neutrophils the most abundant type of white blood cell from small blood samples, an accomplishment that could provide information essential to better understanding the immune system's response to traumatic injury. The system, described in a Nature Medicine paper that received advance online release, also can be adapted to isolate almost any type of cell.
"Neutrophils are currently garnering a lot of interest from researchers and clinicians, but collecting and processing them has been a real challenge," says Kenneth Kotz, PhD, of the MGH Center for Engineering in Medicine, lead author of the study. "This tool will allow a new range of studies and diagnostics based on cell-specific genomic and proteomic signatures."
Part of the body's first-line defense against injury or infection, neutrophils were long thought to play fairly simple roles, such as releasing antimicrobial proteins and ingesting pathogens. But recent studies find their actions to be more complex and critical to both chronic and acute inflammation, particularly the activation of the immune system in response to injury.
Studying patterns of gene expression and protein synthesis in neutrophils could reveal essential information about the immune response, but gathering the cells for analysis has been challenging. Standard isolation procedures take more than two hours and require relatively large blood samples. Neutrophils also are sensitive to handling and easily become activated, changing the molecular patterns of interest, and they contain very small amounts of messenger RNA, which is required for studies of gene expression.
Building on their experience developing silicon-chip-based devices that capture CD4 T cells for HIV diagnosis or isolate circulating tumor cells, Kotz's team developed a system that gathers
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Massachusetts General Hospital