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John Oakey's work at the cellular and molecular level could radically change the way cancer is treated.
Oakey, an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Wyoming's College of Engineering and Applied Science, and his research group have developed an innovative method to isolate cells that are markers of cancer from blood samples.
Cells - Tumor - Cells - CTC - Blood
The cells, known as circulating tumor cells (CTC), are present in the blood of people with tumors in their bodies. The CTCs often migrate from the original tumor site and end up in other areas of the body, potentially growing in the liver, the brain or the lymph nodes. The spread of these cells and the creation of secondary tumors is the process of metastasis, and the treatment of the affected area ends up damaging all cells, including healthy ones.
That makes isolating the CTCs an important but extremely difficult task. A sample of 1 milliliter of blood contains billions of cells, which could contain between one and several hundred CTCs. Current research tactics can isolate the cells, but they typically are mixed with other blood cells.
CTC - Measurement - Tool - Oakey - Processing
"We are interested in developing a CTC measurement tool," Oakey says. "It's based on microscale processing of blood. This is the proverbial 'needle in a haystack' problem. How do you find and isolate those CTCs?"
Oakey adds that, currently, cancer treatment can be likened to a "shotgun blast of medicine" to the affected area, which kills off healthy cells and cancer cells alike, and results in discomfort to patients.
Research - Applications - Cells - Lab - Cultures
Many research applications require that the cells come back alive and viable for lab cultures. Using Oakey's microfluidic device, blood is pumped in from one side into chambers and circulates...
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