A single cell can contain a wealth of information about the health of an individual. Now, a new method developed at MIT and National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan could make it possible to capture and analyze individual cells from a small sample of blood, potentially leading to very low-cost diagnostic systems that could be used almost anywhere. The new system, based on specially treated sheets of graphene oxide, could ultimately lead to a variety of simple devices that could be produced for as little as $5 apiece and perform a variety of sensitive diagnostic tests even in places far from typical medical facilities. The material used in this research is an oxidized version of the two-dimensional form of pure carbon known as graphene, which has been the subject of widespread research for over a decade because of its unique mechanical and electrical characteristics. The key to the new process is heating the graphene oxide at relatively mild temperatures. This low-temperature annealing, as it is known, makes it possible to bond particular compounds to the material's surface. These compounds in turn select and bond with specific molecules of interest, including DNA and proteins, or even whole cells. Once captured, those molecules or cells can then be subjected to a variety of tests. The findings were reported online on January 13, 2017 in the journal ACS Nano in a paper co-authored by Dr. Neelkanth Bardhan, an MIT postdoc, and Priyank Kumar Ph.D.
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