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Biocompatible and label-free separation of cancer cells from cell culture lines from white blood cells in ferrofluids

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Abstract

This paper reports a biocompatible and label-free cell separation method using ferrofluids that can separate a variety of low-concentration cancer cells from cell culture lines (∼100 cancer cells per mL) from undiluted white blood cells, with a throughput of 1.2 mL h−1 and an average separation efficiency of 82.2%. The separation is based on the size difference of the cancer cells and white blood cells, and is conducted in a custom-made biocompatible ferrofluid that retains not only excellent short-term viabilities but also normal proliferations of 7 commonly used cancer cell lines. A microfluidic device is designed and optimized specifically to shorten the time of live cells' exposure to ferrofluids from hours to seconds, by eliminating time-consuming off-chip sample preparation and extraction steps and integrating them on-chip to achieve a one-step process. As a proof-of-concept demonstration, a ferrofluid with 0.26% volume fraction was used in this microfluidic device to separate spiked cancer cells from cell lines at a concentration of ∼100 cells per mL from white blood cells with a throughput of 1.2 mL h−1. The separation efficiencies were 80 ± 3%, 81 ± 5%, 82 ± 5%, 82 ± 4%, and 86 ± 6% for A549 lung cancer, H1299 lung cancer, MCF-7 breast cancer, MDA-MB-231 breast cancer, and PC-3 prostate cancer cell lines, respectively. The separated cancer cells' purity was between 25.3% and 28.8%. In addition, the separated cancer cells from this strategy showed an average short-term viability of 94.4 ± 1.3%, and these separated cells were cultured and demonstrated normal proliferation to confluence even after the separation process. Owing to its excellent biocompatibility and label-free operation and its ability to recover low concentrations of cancer cells from white blood cells, this method could lead to a promising tool for rare cell separation.

Graphical abstract: Biocompatible and label-free separation of cancer cells from cell culture lines from white blood cells in ferrofluids

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Publication details

The article was received on 27 Mar 2017, accepted on 29 May 2017 and first published on 30 May 2017


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7LC00327G
Citation: Lab Chip, 2017, Advance Article
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    Biocompatible and label-free separation of cancer cells from cell culture lines from white blood cells in ferrofluids

    W. Zhao, R. Cheng, S. H. Lim, J. R. Miller, W. Zhang, W. Tang, J. Xie and L. Mao, Lab Chip, 2017, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/C7LC00327G

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