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The standard centrifuge is a laboratory instrument widely used by biologists and medical technicians for preparing cell samples. Efforts to automate the operations of concentration, cell separation, and solution exchange that a centrifuge performs in a simpler and smaller platform have had limited success. Here, we present a microfluidic chip that replicates the functions of a centrifuge without moving parts or external forces. The device operates using a purely fluid dynamic phenomenon in which cells selectively enter and are maintained in microscale vortices. Continuous and sequential operation allows enrichment of cancer cells from spiked blood samples at the mL min−1 scale, followed by fluorescent labeling of intra- and extra-cellular antigens on the cells without the need for manual pipetting and washing steps. A versatile centrifuge-analogue may open opportunities in automated, low-cost and high-throughput sample preparation as an alternative to the standard benchtop centrifuge in standardized clinical diagnostics or resource poor settings.
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