The IFW initiative "Zellekt" has been awarded with the Science4Life Venture Cup Prize in the ideas phase. The prize is awarded annually by the Hessian state government and the health care company Sanofi for promising projects in Life Sciences. The "Zellekt" working group at the SAWLab Saxony of the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden (IFW) is investigating new methods for cell sorting in Lab-on-a-Chip systems, which can be applied directly without pretreating the initial liquid. The sorting of cells and cell components from complex biological fluids is an essential step for many modern biomedical applications.
In the "Zellekt" project, scientists apply high-frequency sound waves on the microscale to cell suspensions. Each particle, cell or biomolecule reacts differently to the sound field due to its individual size, density and compressibility. This is used specifically for cell sorting or for the selection of individual cell types. "The advantage of our technology is that, compared to conventional cell separation methods, no markers or special media are required and the cells are not damaged by the sound waves," says Dr. Andreas Winkler, one of the prizewinners from the research group.
Future users of the technology come from biomedical research institutions and companies that develop new cell and gene therapy treatment approaches. Other possible applications are single-cell-based diagnostic methods such as liquid biopsies, which until now have been dependent on complicated sample preparation for cell sorting.
The technology developed at IFW Dresden is cost-effective, scalable for industrial production, and a patent on the technology is pending. It is planned to convert it into a commercial product within the next few years.
Dr. Andreas Winkler