Biophysical Markers of Cancer and Their Uses for Cell Sorting
Abnormal mechanical stiffness of individual human cells can reveal dysfunction of the cell. For example, invasive cancer cells can be several times more deformable than healthy phenotypes. However, for biophysical properties to be utilized in biomedical and diagnostic settings, we will require methods for continuous sorting of cells by differences in stiffness in high throughput. Although separation by such parameters as density is commonly employed, few methods are available for rapid separation by stiffness. Recently, we have created a microfluidic sorting technology that utilizes a combination of hydrodynamic and compressive forces to sort individual cells by stiffness. We use this approach to sort a variety of cell mixtures, including different subtypes of leukemia cell models as well as ovarian cancer cell models. We further combine computational modeling and experimental studies to best leverage mechanical differences in heterogeneous populations. The technology can be altered to highlight other biophysical differences between cells, such as size and viscous relaxation.
Todd Sulchek is an associate professor in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech where he conducts fundamental and applied research in the field of biophysics. His research program focuses on the mechanical and adhesive properties of cell and biological systems and the development of microsystems to further improve their study. He received his PhD from Stanford in Applied Physics under Calvin Quate and received a bachelors in math and physics from Johns Hopkins. He was a postdoc and staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Lab. He joined Georgia Tech in 2008 as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Sulchek also holds program faculty positions in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering and has a courtesy appointment in the School of Biology. He is a recipient of the NSF CAREER award, the BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, the Lockheed Inspirational Young Faculty award, the 2012 Petit Institute Above and Beyond Award, and the Woodruff Faculty Fellow. To date he has published 55 journal papers and has filed or been issued 9 patents. Prof. Sulchek is a strong supporter of undergraduate research, and he participates in a variety of undergraduate education activities including the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and includes over 28 undergraduate authors.