Complete yet nontoxic removal of tumor cells from autologous marrow grafts has proved difficult. New methods for separating normal stem cells from tumor cells are needed. The CD34+ cells in bone marrow, 1-2% of the low-density leukocytes, include precursors of all lymphohematopoietic lineages and probably also the primitive cells responsible for engraftment. A nontoxic, inexpensive, reproducible, and clinically applicable method for positive selection of CD34+ cells was developed. Paramagnetic microspheres coated with goat anti-mouse IgG1 are used to partition the cells; brief incubation with chymopapain is used to release them from the beads. Chymopapain exposure does not injury colony-forming cells or delay engraftment in rodents. Clinical volumes of bone marrow can be processed rapidly. In pilot experiments, the resulting grafts have a purity of 85-99% CD34+ cells and 40% median recovery of the assayable colony-forming cells. These studies form the background for a Phase I trial of autologous BMT using CD34+ stem cells.