Lens-Free Imaging Project For Detecting Metastatic Cancer Cells Gets Funding

Lens-Free Imaging Project For Detecting Metastatic Cancer Cells Gets Funding

7 February 2014

The European Research Council (ERC) has pledged to finance a project involving the development of a new lens-free imaging technology for early detection of metastatic cancer cells. This is one of a string of optics and photonics research studies that will be funded through the council's "consolidator grant" scheme. It will receive EUR2 million over a period of five years.

The project will be headed by Liesbet Lagae from the Belgian microelectronics research center IMEC, and will see the development of a device intended to help pathologists, surgeons and nurses optimize individualized follow-up and outcomes for patients diagnosed with cancer.

As part of the Single Cell AnaLysis and Sorting Platform based on Lens-free digital imaging used in rapid cancer detection (SCALPEL) project, the team will work on a single-cell analyzer that will help monitor the physical morphology of single cells flowing through a microfluidic network. The cells will be directed towards different outlets with gentle cell-sorting switches. The project will therefore build on so-called "high-content" microscopic imaging and the functionalities of automated high-throughput technologies, according to IMEC. The cost, however, will be substantially smaller, as the project will rely extremely on cheap and compact nanoelectronics and novel signal processing technology, which will replace all optomechanical components, including lenses, detectors and nozzles.

The device's particular purpose will be to identify metastatic cancer cells, which proliferate from the primary tumor and affect other parts of a patient's body. Metastasis thus spreads the disease and usually dramatically reduces a patient's likelihood of survival.