Researchers develop a 'laboratory on chip' device to detect cancerous stem cells

Friday 23 February 2018

A European research collaboration is developing a new 'laboratory on a chip' device that will be able to rapidly detect the different types of cancer stem cells involved in two of the most aggressive brain tumours

The aim of this research project is to develop micro technology that will have the ability to identify and treat different types of glioblastoma and medulloblastoma cancer stem cell.

Glioblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumour occurring in adults, and medulloblastoma is the most common malignant childhood brain tumour.

Cancer stem cells are unspecialised cells within a tumour that are capable of long-term self-renew (meaning they can divide and make lots more stem cells), and transform into specialised cancer cells; they are also sometimes call 'tumour-initiating cells' or 'cancer-initiating cells'.

Previous research has shown that cancer stem cells play a vital role in the recurrence of certain cancers, including glioblastoma and medulloblastoma. These cells may remain after a patient undergoes treatment and cause tumour regrowth. Identification of these stem cells can take up to 40 days using traditional laboratory methods.

The first target of this research project will be to develop a microscopic chip that will have the ability to distinguish cancer stem cells from normal cells based on how they react in response to electromagnetic waves. The researchers are additionally aiming at specifically kill cancer stem cells in the chip.

There has been significant progress made in this project with a microchip having been successfully used for radiation-based sorting of glioblastoma cells based on their treatment resistance and aggressiveness.

This collaborative research project will involve researchers from Bangor University in Wales, Limoges University in France, and the Universities of Padua and Rome in Italy, as well as IHP Microelectronics in Germany and CREO Medical in Wales.

If successful, this pioneering project could resolve the current delay in diagnosis, as well as propel the development of new tools to treat cancerous stem cells at the tumour site.

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