Updated on 29 June 2015
The new device offers a way to study cancer cells in unprecedented detail
Singapore: Biomedical engineers from the University of Toronto have unveiled a new device that accurately tracks chemical signals which tell cells how to multiply, an advance that could help identify new targets for cancer medications.
In the study published in the journal Nature, researchers elaborated that certain signaling molecules known as hormones regulate cell division, however not all cells respond to these chemicals in the same manner. To study the responses of different cells, researchers harnessed the emerging power of digital microfluidics, which involves shuttling tiny drops of water around on a series of small electrodes that looks like a miniature checkerboard.
The researchers were able to increase the speed at which chemical changes can be detected by a factor of 100.
"By applying the right sequence of voltages, we can create electric fields that attract and move around droplets containing any chemical solution," said first author Mr Alphonsus Ng who recently graduated with a PhD from the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and Donnelly Centre.
The team's method allows the scientists to deliver a quick-fire sequence of chemicals to small groups of cells stuck to the surface of the board.