Fluorescence activated cell sorting via a focused traveling surface acoustic beam†
Fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) has become an essential technique widely exploited in biological studies and clinical applications. However, current FACS systems are quite complex, expensive, bulky, and pose potential sample contamination and biosafety issues due to the generation of aerosols in an open environment. Microfluidic technology capable of precise cell manipulation has great potential to reinvent and miniaturize conventional FACS systems. In this work, we demonstrate a benchtop scale FACS system that makes use of a highly focused traveling surface acoustic wave beam to sort out micron-sized particles and biological cells upon fluorescence interrogation at ∼kHz rates. The highly focused acoustic wave beam has a width of ∼50 μm that enables highly accurate sorting of individual particles and cells. We have applied our acoustic FACS system to isolate fluorescently labeled MCF-7 breast cancer cells from diluted whole blood samples with the purity of sorted MCF-7 cells higher than 86%. The cell viability before and after acoustic sorting is higher than 95%, indicating excellent biocompatibility that should enable a variety of cell sorting applications in biomedical research.