Label-free enrichment of primary human skeletal progenitor cells using deterministic lateral displacement†
Skeletal stem cells (SSCs) are present in bone marrow (BM) and offer great potential for bone regenerative therapies. However, in the absence of a unique marker, current sorting approaches remain challenging in the quest for simple strategies to deliver SSCs with consistent regeneration and differentiation capacities. Microfluidics offers the possibility to sort cells marker-free, based on intrinsic biophysical properties. Recent studies indicate that SSCs are stiffer than leukocytes and are contained within the larger cell fraction in BM. This paper describes the use of deterministic lateral displacement (DLD) to sort SSCs based on cell size and stiffness. DLD is a technology that uses arrays of micropillars to sort cells based on their diameter. Cell deformation within the device can change the cell size and affect sorting – here evidenced using human cell lines and by fractionation of expanded SSCs. Following sorting, SSCs remained viable and retained their capacity to form clonogenic cultures (CFU-F), indicative of stem cell potential. Additionally, larger BM cells showed enhanced capacity to form CFU-F. These findings support the theory that SSCs are more abundant within the larger BM cell fraction and that DLD, or other size-based approaches, could be used to provide enriched SSC populations with significant implications for stem cell research and translation to the clinic.