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High-throughput continuous dielectrophoretic separation of neural stem cells

  • Jiang, Alan Y. L.
  • Yale, Andrew R.
  • Aghaamoo, Mohammad1
  • Lee, Do-Hyun1
  • Lee, Abraham P.1
  • Adams, Tayloria N. G.
  • Flanagan, Lisa A.
  • 1 Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Irvine, USA
Published Article
American Institute of Physics
Publication Date
Nov 13, 2019
DOI: 10.1063/1.5128797
PMID: 31737160
PMCID: PMC6853802
PubMed Central


We created an integrated microfluidic cell separation system that incorporates hydrophoresis and dielectrophoresis modules to facilitate high-throughput continuous cell separation. The hydrophoresis module consists of a serpentine channel with ridges and trenches to generate a diverging fluid flow that focuses cells into two streams along the channel edges. The dielectrophoresis module is composed of a chevron-shaped electrode array. Separation in the dielectrophoresis module is driven by inherent cell electrophysiological properties and does not require cell-type-specific labels. The chevron shape of the electrode array couples with fluid flow in the channel to enable continuous sorting of cells to increase throughput. We tested the new system with mouse neural stem cells since their electrophysiological properties reflect their differentiation capacity (e.g., whether they will differentiate into astrocytes or neurons). The goal of our experiments was to enrich astrocyte-biased cells. Sorting parameters were optimized for each batch of neural stem cells to ensure effective and consistent separations. The continuous sorting design of the device significantly improved sorting throughput and reproducibility. Sorting yielded two cell fractions, and we found that astrocyte-biased cells were enriched in one fraction and depleted from the other. This is an advantage of the new continuous sorting device over traditional dielectrophoresis-based sorting platforms that target a subset of cells for enrichment but do not provide a corresponding depleted population. The new microfluidic dielectrophoresis cell separation system improves label-free cell sorting by increasing throughput and delivering enriched and depleted cell subpopulations in a single sort.

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