Electrical Cell Sorting

The lipid membrane of the cell acts as a physical barrier between the extracellular environment and the sensitive internal structures responsible for maintaining homeostasis. This membrane also electrically isolates the cytoplasm and organelles from the outside world. The electrical properties of this membrane are different between different types of cells. These slight changes in bio-electric fingerprint allow us to selectively manipulate certain populations of cells. We are developing new ways to identify and isolate rare circulating tumor cells as an early warning system for cancer diagnostics.

Reversibly Trapping Leukemia Cells using DEP

This contactless dielectrophoresis (cDEP) device uses fluid electrodes, shown in yellow, which are isolated from the main sample channel. When we apply an AC voltage across these fluid electrodes, we induce a highly non-uniform electric field inside of the device. This produces a strong dielectrophoretic force which traps cells against pillars in the channel. When the AC voltage is turned off, the cells are released downstream for further processing.

Isolation of cancer cells from blood

In this device, cancer cells (blue) experience a positive DEP force which pushes them towards the top of the channel. Because they have a different bio-electric fingerprint, red blood cells are pushed towards the bottom of the device. Future generations of this design will enable us to detect the small number of cancer cells in a drop of blood before tumors become symptomatic.

Multi-layer contactless dielctrophoresis device

Contactless dielectrophoresis (cDEP) uses fluid electrodes (shown in red) which are isolated from the sample channel (shown in blue) by a thin membrane. This enables us to produce a wide variety of devices which are customized for specific tasks while maintaining a sterile environment for 'sort and culture' applications.

Enriching 1 micron particles using DEP

In this device, we are collecting dilute particles which are 1 micron in diameter. Particles are enriched and then released down stream for further analysis. Future generations of these devices could be used in water purity applications.