Porous nanotube ‘forests’ catch cancer cells

Researchers have designed a microfluidic device that uses porous “forests” of carbon nanotubes to detect individual cancer cells or viruses such as HIV in a blood sample.

By making the posts out of porous carbon nanotubes, which are cylinders of carbon atoms, and attaching various antibodies to them, sample fluid can flow through and around the “trees,” increasing the chances of detection.

The antibodies will bond to targets chemically, but the device also works mechanically by trapping particles depending on the distance between the trees. The forest has 10 billion to 100 billion carbon nanotubes per square centimeter, and is 99 percent air.

The device is about the size of a dime and the detection method is described in a study that appears online in the journal Small.

Normally, circulating tumor cells are very difficult to detect, and the device may be useful in discovering when cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body. The researchers are working to tailor the device to HIV detection. Read more…

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