Cells secrete nanoscale membraned packets called exosomes that can carry important messages from one part of the body to another. Scientists from MIT and other institutions have now devised a way to intercept these messages, which could be used to diagnose problems such as cancer or fetal abnormalities. Their new device uses a combination of microfluidics and sound waves to isolate these exosomes from blood. The researchers hope to incorporate this technology into a portable device that could analyze patient blood samples for rapid diagnosis, without involving the cumbersome and time-consuming ultracentrifugation method commonly used today. “These exosomes often contain specific molecules that are a signature of certain abnormalities. If you isolate them from blood, you can do biological analysis and see what they reveal,” says Dr. Ming Dao, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and a senior author of the study, which appears in PNAS the week of September 18, 2017. The paper’s senior authors also include Dr. Subra Suresh, President-Designate of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, MIT’s Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering Emeritus, and a former Dean of Engineering at MIT; Dr. Tony Jun Huang, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University; and Dr. Yoel Sadovsky, Director of the Magee-Women’s Research Institutein Pittsburgh.
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