Research ArticleCancer Diagnostics

Ultrasensitive Clinical Enumeration of Rare Cells ex Vivo Using a Micro-Hall Detector

Science Translational Medicine  04 Jul 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 141, pp. 141ra92
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003747

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Abstract

The ability to detect rare cells (<100 cells/ml whole blood) and obtain quantitative measurements of specific biomarkers on single cells is increasingly important in basic biomedical research. Implementing such methodology for widespread use in the clinic, however, has been hampered by low cell density, small sample sizes, and requisite sample purification. To overcome these challenges, we have developed a microfluidic chip–based micro-Hall detector (μHD), which can directly measure single, immunomagnetically tagged cells in whole blood. The μHD can detect single cells even in the presence of vast numbers of blood cells and unbound reactants, and does not require any washing or purification steps. In addition, the high bandwidth and sensitivity of the semiconductor technology used in the μHD enables high-throughput screening (currently ~107 cells/min). The clinical use of the μHD chip was demonstrated by detecting circulating tumor cells in whole blood of 20 ovarian cancer patients at higher sensitivity than currently possible with clinical standards. Furthermore, the use of a panel of magnetic nanoparticles, distinguished with unique magnetization properties and bio-orthogonal chemistry, allowed simultaneous detection of the biomarkers epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM), human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)/neu, and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) on individual cells. This cost-effective, single-cell analytical technique is well suited to perform molecular and cellular diagnosis of rare cells in the clinic.

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