Rare Sightings

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Science  23 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6075, pp. 1410
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6075.1410-d
CREDIT: ISTOCKPHOTO; SCHIRO ET AL., ANGEW. CHEM. INT. ED. 51, 10.1002/ANIE.201108695 (2012)

The isolation and analysis of rare cells, particularly circulating tumor cells (CTCs), is central to advances in personalized medicine. Various approaches have been used to isolate these cells, which are typically present at concentrations of just 1 to 10 cells per milliliter of blood, below the threshold of conventional flow cytometry techniques. However, it has been difficult to ensure detection of all cells, to avoid stressing or damaging the cells during isolation, and to recover the cells after imaging. To overcome these problems, Schiro et al. have developed a microfluidic platform, in which blood is broken down into nanoliter aliquots that are ranked for the presence or absence of CTCs. CTCs were labeled with fluorescent antibodies to enable detection. Those aliquots containing CTCs were then sorted into a collection channel and filtered to enrich the rare cells within a small area. In this area, individual live CTCs could be imaged with minimal stress or could be removed for further studies. The method allows analysis of 1 ml of blood within 20 min, with no false positives and a recovery efficiency of 93%. The method should also be applicable to other rare cell types.

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 51, 10.1002/anie.201108695 (2012).

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