A Combined Microfluidic and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging(FLIM) Platform to Identify Mammalian Circulating Cancer Cells in Whole Blood

Tech ID: 28924 / UC Case 2017-815-0

Brief Description

Separating and classifying circulating cancer cells from whole blood using a single cell trap microfluidic platform coupled with label free fluorescence life time imaging.

Full Description

Blood-borne metastasis caused by circulating cancer cells (CTC) is the cause of 90% of cancer related deaths. It has been shown that circulating cancer cells can be detected and classified by a liquid blood biopsy. Liquid biopsy utilizes microfluidics and imaging as a way to detect single CTCs from dense whole blood. Unfortunately, these current microfluidic biopsy techniques lack the sensitivity to detect CTCs in whole blood due to non-selective cell sorting nature of these methods.

Researchers at the University of California have developed a robust sensitive lab-on-a-chip platform to detect CTCs through a combined microfluidics and label-free approach via fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM). FLIM is a non-invasive methodology that can differentiate innate biological fluorescent absorbers based on the time it takes for the absorber’s fluorescence brightness to fall. A FLIM-Phasor plot that contains all fluorescent lifetime(s) of a sample can provide a straight forward visualization of the different biochemical compounds and their chemical state in the sample. Utilizing such a FLIM-Phasor plot has shown clear differentiation between different cancer cells providing greater diagnostic information regarding the isolated CTCs.

Suggested uses

  • Separating circulating tumor cells from whole blood
  • Diagnosing sickle cell anemia
  • Differentiate cancer and leukemia cells


  • Revealing molecular-level signature of tumor
  • Low cost, disposable, ease of mass production
  • Multifunctional diagnostic platform for different blood related diseases

Patent Status

Patent Pending

State Of Development

Invention has completed the conceptualization phase, simulation and preliminary experimental stage. Currently, the invention is undergoing design optimization to improve cell entrapment.


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