At the recent International Conference on Microtechnologies in Medicine and Biology, researchers from the Institute for Acoustics in Spain presented a device they created that filters cancer cells from samples of human blood using sound waves, says New Scientist's Lucas Laursen. The new technology could help clinicians identify whether a tumor has metastasized. The blood flows through a small, vibrating plastic chamber, and the vibrations create a wave that separates cells according to their size, Laursen says. Because tumor cells are larger than blood cells, they collect in a different region of the device, and clinicians can then evaluate tumor progression based on how many cancer cells there are in the blood sample. "The prototype can reliably differentiate cancer cells 70 percent of the time, and a modified version that exposes the blood to the acoustic waves for a longer amount of time should be able to differentiate a cancer cell from a normal cell 95 percent of the time," Laursen adds. Typically, finding just two or three tumor cells in a seven milliliter sample of blood is enough to make a determination that a cancer is metastasizing, the researchers say.
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