Checking biopsy samples for signs of cancer can be labor intensive and time consuming, especially before anyone even looks through a microscope. Samples have to be sliced, stained, and deposited onto slides. Researchers at University of Washington are now working on microfluidic technology that may help make this process faster and easier to perform, while resulting in 3D samples as opposed to standard flat slices.
The prototype device developed so far consists of transparent Teflon tubes embedded within silicone that allow for tissue samples to move through. This is a pretty significant achievement since microfluidic devices so far haven’t been able to work with anything larger than single-celled organisms. The vision for the final device includes an easy transfer of a sample from a syringe right into the microfluidic channels, and the cutting, staining, and other preparatory steps that are now done manually in the lab.
Here’s a video of entire tissue samples traveling through the device:
Here’s a more complete process starting with the deposition of a sample, staining, and washing before exiting from the device: