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Increasing label-free stem cell sorting capacity to reach transplantation-scale throughput


Dielectrophoresis (DEP) has proven an invaluable tool for the enrichment of populations of stem and progenitor cells owing to its ability to sort cells in a label-free manner and its biological safety. However, DEP separation devices have suffered from a low throughput preventing researchers from undertaking studies requiring large numbers of cells, such as needed for cell transplantation. We developed a microfluidic device designed for the enrichment of stem and progenitor cell populations that sorts cells at a rate of 150,000 cells/h, corresponding to an improvement in the throughput achieved with our previous device designs by over an order of magnitude. This advancement, coupled with data showing the DEP-sorted cells retain their enrichment and differentiation capacity when expanded in culture for periods of up to 2 weeks, provides sufficient throughput and cell numbers to enable a wider variety of experiments with enriched stem and progenitor cell populations. Furthermore, the sorting devices presented here provide ease of setup and operation, a simple fabrication process, and a low associated cost to use that makes them more amenable for use in common biological research laboratories. To our knowledge, this work represents the first to enrich stem cells and expand them in culture to generate transplantation-scale numbers of differentiation-competent cells using DEP.

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