The Michigan Engineer News Center

Teaming up to tackle melanoma recurrence with microfluidics

Graduate student Heather Fairbairn and Associate Professor Sunitha Nagrath are developing a microfluidic technology that could revolutionize melanoma care and treatment. | Short Read
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IMAGE:  A high-throughput, graphene oxide functionalized, radial flow microfluidic technology under development in the Nagrath Research Group. Photo: Mina Zeinali / Zina Photography, Ann Arbor, Michigan
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IMAGE:  Heather Fairbairn, ChE PhD student, uses food dye to test the flow patterns of the high-throughput, cancer cell detection device she is developing. Through a partnership with Michigan Medicine's Dr. Scott McLean, Fairbairn's device will aid oncologists in predicting the possibility of melanoma recurrence following tumor removal. Photo: Mina Zeinali / ZinaPhotography, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Heather Fairbairn, a second-year graduate research assistant working with Associate Professor Sunitha Nagrath, is developing a microfluidic technology that could revolutionize melanoma care and treatment. The incorporation of nano-materials into this device will provide a high-throughput and high-purity method for isolating and analyzing circulating tumor cells from whole blood. Through a collaboration with Dr. Scott McLean of Michigan Medicine’s Otolaryngology Clinic, she hopes to find clues that would predict recurrence by analyzing these aggressive cell populations before and after melanoma removal surgery. “The translational engineering approach that we are using for this project has the potential to transform melanoma disease management and treatment,” says Nagrath​​.

While Fairbairn works on developing this new technology, the team is using another Nagrath group microfluidic technology, the OncoBean, to do a preliminary investigation into pre and post operative tumor cells. They are excited to see what this pilot study will reveal and what new insights the high-throughput, high-purity technology will give for future studies.​ ​Read more about this collaboration and the upcoming Victors for Melanoma Research Team’s “Tailgate to Tackle Melanoma.”

 

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