New chip helps scientists better study cancerous stem cells

Stem Cell Life and Death
New chip developed to study how Stem Cells live and die

Scientists from the University of Michigan recently developed a new device to help them more easily analyze cancer stem cells – all of which have different properties. Their goal was to better understand the growth and death habits of these cells, according to Phys.org

“The device or chip allows scientists to study upwards of 10,000 cells.”

The device or chip allows scientists to study more than 10,000 cells by isolating each cell into a channel. Once the cell is inside, the device closes off the exit and entrance. Because normal cells need to hang onto something to live, scientists coated the walls of each chamber to prevent cells from clinging.

“Most normal cells will die if they are not anchored to something, but cancerous stem cells can survive. They can become circulating tumor cells and come to another area of the body,” said Euisik Yoon, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and biomedical engineering, according to Phys.org.

During the process, normal cells died and cancerous cells remained, allowing scientists to more easily study the cells automatically – an aspect of the chip that makes it stand out from other similar devices. After all, imagine trying to examine each individual cell manually? It’d take much too long.

“Our method is special because we really want to enable the study of many cells at once,” Yu-Heng Cheng, a doctoral student in electrical engineering and computer science, explained to Phys.org. “Cancer cells have many different appearances, and our algorithm recognizes them.”

The chip and subsequent studies will allow scientists to more efficiently gather new data and information that could be used for treatment purposes.