Density-based Cell Sorting for Lung Cancer Circulating Tumor Cells Counting

Project Title: Density-based Cell Sorting for Lung Cancer Circulating Tumor Cells Counting

Project Duration: May 23 – July 29, 2016 (10 weeks), 40 hours per week.

Project Mentors –

Primary Faculty Mentor (Name, Affiliation, website and Email/Phone):

Leidong Mao PhD, UGA College of Engineering,, 706-542-1871,

Secondary Faculty Mentor (Name, Affiliation, website and Email/Phone):

Carsten Schroeder MD PhD, Georgia Regents University, Department of Surgery,, 706-721-4726

Graduate Student/PostDoc mentors (Name, Affiliation and Email/Phone):

Wujun Zhao, UGA College of Engineering,, 706-542-1482

Project Description: Access to tumor samples without the need for painful and expensive tumor biopsies, would allow clinicians and researchers to frequently analyze patient samples and have significant impact on patent care. Thus the great potential in recent circulating tumor cell (CTC) research lies in the use of these rare cells present in the peripheral blood as an accessible biopsy that would permit repeated minimally invasive sampling of tumor cells. The concentration of CTCs is also believed to be an important indicator of cancer progression and metastasis. As a result accurate counting and analysis of CTCs are critical to therapeutic response monitoring of various types of cancer, including lung cancer. However, only 1-100 CTCs exist in 1 mL of whole blood (that is around 10^9 RBCs and 10^6 WBCs), which makes the enrichment, characterization and analysis of CTCs challenging. Recent advances in microfluidic systems at the Dr.Mao’s lab have lead to the development of a label-free micro-scale ferrofluidic cell separation platform that can enrich cells of interest based on their sizes with high throughput, high enrichment ratio, high purity and very low cost.  The specific hypothesis for this project is that the subtle density difference between WBCs and CTCs can be used to further enrich CTCs from the blood sample.

REU Student Role and Responsibility: The student project will work with a graduate student and collaborators at Georgia Regents University to develop an optimized magnetic microfluidic system based on the previous generation of enrichment chip that can be used to process lung cancer specimens at a CTC recovery ratio of over 90% with a cell-processing throughput of over 10^9 cells/hour. Our initial experimental results indicate that ferrofluids under magnetic fields can be used to enrich cancer cells from whole blood at approximately 10^8 cell/hour with the current design. The throughput this separation scheme needs to be systematically optimized to allow for over 10^9 cell/hour throughput for CTC detection. The student will 1) investigate the density profile of multiple lung cancer cell lines; 2) simulate and demonstrate the feasibility of enriching CTCs from WBCs based on their density differences; 3) experimentally demonstrate the enrichment based on density .

Expected Outcome for REU student: The student is expected to contribute and co-author journal and conference papers.