In one of electrofusion's applications, scientists can fuse antibody-producing cells from the spleen (beta cells) with cancer cells in order to create a virtually immortal, antibody-producing hybrid, called a hybridoma. By manipulating the beta cells prior to fusion, scientists can create thousands of different hybridomas that produce antibodies effective against different viruses and diseases like cancer.
Lu's research regarding the development and use of this technology was published online Monday (Dec. 4) in the journal Applied Physics Letters and is scheduled to appear in print later this month. Graduate student Jun Wang was a co-author.
One downside to the current technique for electrofusion is that researchers have relatively little control over how many cells they fuse at once; the technique works by aligning an uncertain number of cells along an electrical field before zapping them with pulses of electricity. Lu's technology is more precise.
"In my device, the narrow section in the microfluidic channel is so small that only two to three cells fit into it," Lu said.
Lu said he believes that his device may be developed to have a higher throughput than current methods. Although Lu's technology currently fuses single pairs at once, it may be expanded so that multiple devices simultaneously fuse cells in parallel.
"In time, this could drastically increase the rate of cell fusion," he said.
Lu has shown that his technology has a success rate comparable to current technology; about 30 percent to 40 percent of the cells are properly fused when the operational parameters were tuned up.
"We are not saying that our technology is necessarily better, but it is definitely cheaper and has other benefits," he said. "Ho