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New technology could boost disease detection tests' speed and sensitivity
Date:12/7/2009

New Haven, Conn.A team led by Yale University scientists has developed a way to rapidly manipulate and sort different cells in the blood using magnetizable liquids. The findings, which will be published the week of December 7 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could dramatically improve the speed and sensitivity of tests used to detect cancer biomarkers, blood disorders, viruses and other diseases.

Ferrofluids are comprised of magnetic nanoparticles suspended throughout a liquid carrier. They have been used in industrial applications for years, including in hard disk drives and loudspeakers. Now a team led by Hur Koser, associate professor at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science, has developed a biocompatible ferrofluidone with the right pH level and salinity so that human cells can survive in it for several hoursand has created a device with integrated electrodes that generate a magnetic field pattern, allowing them to manipulate and separate red blood cells, sickle cells and bacteria contained in this unique solution.

The magnetic field attracts the nanoparticles in the ferrofluid, effectively pushing and shuffling the much larger, nonmagnetic cells along specific channels. Depending on the frequency of the magnetic field they apply, the researchers are also able to manipulate and sort different types of cells depending on their size, elasticity and shape.

"It's like the cells are surfing on magnetic forces," Koser said. "When we turn on the magnetic field, the nonmagnetic cells are pushed immediately up to the top of the channel." There, they roll along the surface and can be quickly directed toward a sensor.

While other cell manipulation techniques exist, this new method is unique in that it doesn't require attaching biomarkers, or labels, to the cells and there is no need for labor-intensive preparation or post-processing.

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Contact: Suzanne Taylor Muzzin
suzanne.taylormuzzin@yale.edu
203-432-8555
Yale University
Source:Eurekalert  

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