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5 CU-Boulder Students Patent New Medical Device Through Partnership With CU Cancer Center researcher
Date:5/29/2013

Boulder, CO (PRWEB) May 29, 2013

Five University of Colorado Boulder students have partnered with a researcher at the University of Colorado Cancer Center to file a patent for a medical device that lets researchers quickly, easily and inexpensively isolate a patient’s cancer cells for genetic tests that allow doctors to target the disease.

“Believe it or not, there’s not a good way to do this. Existing techniques are either technical and expensive, or low-tech like using a manual pipette to transfer cells,” said CU Cancer Center investigator Wilbur Franklin, who worked with mechanical engineering seniors from CU-Boulder’s Design Center Colorado.

The group’s device includes a handheld grip the size of an electric toothbrush that holds a commercial pipette — a slender tube — connected to a highly precise pump that can aspirate cells into it and then expel them into a test tube. Working under a microscope, a user manipulates the thin tip of the pipette into the center of tumor cells on a slide. Then, the push of a button sucks cells into the pipette and another push expels them. The pump can be set to pull cells from the alcohol, saline or formaldehyde solutions that are commonly used to mobilize cells in thin tissue slices on slides.

“It doesn’t sound like rocket science, but it was surprisingly complex,” said Aaron Lieberman, a senior in the CU-Boulder mechanical engineering department. For example, the team found that pushing the button to suck cells into the system created a pulling pressure that didn’t naturally end with the release of the button but instead pulled cells further into the pipette.

To troubleshoot, the team added a solenoid valve to vent the backpressure built up in the system. Likewise, the group worked closely with Franklin to solve issues of usability so important to a device that lab techs could use for hours at a time.

“The movement at the end of the pipette has
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