MIT cell sorting system

MIT has developed a simple, inexpensive system to sort different kinds of cells a process that could result in low-cost tools to test for diseases such as cancer, even in remote locations.

The method relies on the way cells sometimes interact with a surface (such as the wall of a blood vessel) by rolling along it. In the new device, a surface is coated with lines of a material that interacts with the cells, making it seem sticky to specific types of cells. The sticky lines are oriented diagonally to the flow of cell-containing fluid passing over the surface, so as certain kinds of cells respond to the coating they are nudged to one side, allowing them to be separated out.

Cancer cells, for example, can be separated from normal cells by this method, which could ultimately lead to a simple device for cancer screening. Stem cells also exhibit the same kind of selective response, so such devices could eventually be used in research labs to concentrate these cells for further study.

Normally, it takes an array of lab equipment and several separate steps to achieve this kind of separation of cells. This can make such methods impractical for widespread screening of blood samples in the field, especially in remote areas. �Our system is tailor-made for analysis of blood,� Karnik says. In addition, some kinds of cells, including stem cells, are very sensitive to external conditions, so this system could allow them to be concentrated with much less damage than with conventional multi-stage lab techniques.

Now that the basic principle has been harnessed in the lab, Karnik estimates it may take up to two years to develop into a standard device that could be used for laboratory research purposes. Because of the need for extensive testing, development of a device for clinical use could take about five years, he estimates.

0 thoughts on “MIT cell sorting system”

  1. Hi Dan

    Thanks for your compliment on my blog.

    Nanotechnology is not needed to handle nuclear waste. Most nuclear waste is incompletely burned nuclear fuel.

    I have written about the status of nuclear material reprocessing.

    Reprocessing lets you send the 99-98% of unburned fuel back.

    Also, not all nuclear fission reactors are equal. There were liquid flouride reactors built in the 60s that can burn all of the fuel instead of our currrent 1-2%.

    All the really long half-life material is usable as fuel.

    that leaves stuff with 30 year half lives or less that is less than 5% by weight. Each of those elements can also be used for other purposes.

    The current commitment is already pretty big to nuclear. 19% of current US electricity.
    The current 443 reactors burn about 66,000 tons of uranium at 1% effiency. We can go to 100% efficiency with reprocessing or high burn reactors. There is 3 billion tons of Uranium in the oceans which the Japanese have already shown can be extracted for about $120 per pound. Plus thorium can also be used.
    So over 5 million years X the current reactor level. So if we use 10 times as much the Uranium/thorium and still not run out for 500,000 years. There is also Uranium and thorium in the moon.

    I have posts about this if you look at the nuclear category of posts down the left.

    However, I am confident that we will get various forms of very good nuclear fusion working as well as super-efficient and cheap solar with nanotechnology. See some of my articles about large space structures (space bubbles and magnetically inflated structures). With nanotech enhanced versions of those we can rapidly develop massive space solar energy. Under a pessimistic scenario these things might not happen until 2040. In the meantime, millions will continue to die every year by not cleaning up air pollution from coal and fossil fuels, plus the $70+ billion lost in the US alone from using 40% of the rail for moving coal and not getting more of the truck moved freight onto rail and the $20 billion per year in health costs.

  2. Brian, I really enjoy your blog.

    I agree that nuclear power has a future in our energy policies but there are some issues that continue to bother me.

    First of all we need to really lock down the waste processing problem before making a big commitment to this technology.

    Given humanities collective inabiilty to plan even 50 years ahead, its hard to imagine us making smart decisions for legacies commensorate with toxic wastes that have half lifes of up to 50,000 years (plutonium). this is a length of time equivelant 7 times the length of recorded history, a sobering thought indeed.

    It seems that a prerequesite for a commitment to nuclear power would be a waste processing plan that is fully self sustaining and un-dependent on any human support. This would guard against any retractions in technology or civilization over the period of toxicity for the waste

    Perhaps you have a post or an opinion about the use of nanotechnology to solve the waste problem. I can imagine senarios where the half life the of the waste can be greatly reduced.

    In our rush to solve the global warming/petrochemical addiction problem, We have to be careful not to exchange one demon for another.

    I also am leary of switching to another resource restrained energy solution.

    One advantage to solar and wind power solutions is that they are distributed and truely reneweable, since the amounts of wind and sun are predictable within reason and not likely to go away ( of if they did then we have much larger probelms to deal with)

    I envision a multi soureced energy policy for our planet that includes use of many solutions, avoiding the ‘unilateral’ energy solution of petrochemicals that currently makes us so vulnerable to supply instability issues.


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