Continuous-flow microfluidic blood cell sorting for unprocessed whole blood using surface-micromachined microfiltration membranes
White blood cells (WBCs) constitute about 0.1% of the blood cells, yet they play a critical role in innate and adaptive immune responses against pathogenic infections, allergic conditions, and malignancies and thus contain rich information about the immune status of the body. Rapid isolation of WBCs directly from whole blood is a prerequisite for any integrated immunoassay platform designed for examining WBC phenotypes and functions; however, such functionality is still challenging for blood-on-a-chip systems, as existing microfluidic cell sorting techniques are inadequate for efficiently processing unprocessed whole blood on chip with concurrent high throughput and cell purity. Herein we report a microfluidic chip for continuous-flow isolation and sorting of WBCs from whole blood with high throughput and separation efficiency. The microfluidic cell sorting chip leveraged the crossflow filtration scheme in conjunction with a surface-micromachined poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) microfiltration membrane (PMM) with high porosity. With a sample throughput of 1 mL h−1, the microfluidic cell sorting chip could recover 27.4 ± 4.9% WBCs with a purity of 93.5 ± 0.5%. By virtue of its separation efficiency, ease of sample recovery, and high throughput enabled by its continuous-flow operation, the microfluidic cell sorting chip holds promise as an upstream component for blood sample preparation and analysis in integrated blood-on-a-chip systems.