Continuous-flow sorting of stem cells and differentiation products based on dielectrophoresis†
This paper presents a continuous-flow microfluidic device for sorting stem cells and their differentiation progenies. The principle of the device is based on the accumulation of multiple dielectrophoresis (DEP) forces to deflect cells laterally in conjunction with the alternating on/off electric field to manipulate the cell trajectories. The microfluidic device containing a large array of oblique interdigitated electrodes was fabricated using a combination of standard and soft lithography techniques to generate a PDMS–gold electrode construct. Experimental testing with human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) and their differentiation progenies (osteoblasts) was carried out at different flow rates, and clear separation of the two populations was achieved. Most of the osteoblasts experiencing stronger DEP forces were deflected laterally and continuously, following zig-zag trajectories, and moved towards the desired collection outlet, whereas most of the hMSCs remained on the original trajectory due to weaker DEP forces. The experimental measurements were characterized and evaluated quantitatively, and consistent performance was demonstrated. Collection efficiency up to 92% and 67% for hMSCs and osteoblasts, respectively, along with purity up to 84% and 87% was obtained. The experimental results established the feasibility of our microfluidic DEP sorting device for continuous, label-free sorting of stem cells and their differentiation progenies.