Optical Tweezers pluck Cancer cells from Blood Stream

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Optical Tweezers

Scribe: Samuel Otis

Email: samuel@thethinkering.com


New Optical tweezers offer early diagnoses for cancer patients. The new technology allows small devices to enter the blood stream and actually able to grab objects as small as a cell.

Individual cancer cells can be gripped and manipulated with the tiny optical tweezers. The technique uses a bean of light to create and attract cells using a force field that holds, or traps small objects without physical contact.

Researchers say, "Currently, to test for cancer, you must wait until there's a visible tumor or a sufficient volume of cancerous cells in a blood sample," he said. "By that time, the cancer may be advanced. But cancer starts with single cells. If doctors could separate those cells from among millions of blood cells, we could detect cancer much sooner -- at a point where it's not visible using other techniques. This could advance diagnoses by months or even years, and make treatment much more successful."

Optical tweezers were first demonstrated in the 1980s but because of their size prevented the tool from becoming critical for scientists in biology, chemistry and physics to perform experiments at the molecular and cellular level.

Larger tweezers proved useful for field testing(water or soil samples) or in hospitals and doctors officers but could be affected by the environment.

The new smaller device eliminated the use of a optical lens in exchange for optical fibers 

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