Targeted removal of blood cancer cells from mixed cell populations by cell recognition with matching particle imprints†
We report a new approach for separation of blood cancer cells from healthy white blood cells based on cell recognition by surface functionalised particle imprints. We prepared polymeric particle imprints from a layer of suspension of monodisperse PMMA microbeads which closely match the size of in vitro cultured human leukaemia cells (HL60). The imprints were replicated on a large scale with UV curable polyurethane resin using nanoimprinting lithography and surface functionalized with a cationic polymer, a branched polyethylene imine (bPEI), and a Pluronic surfactant, Poloxamer 407, to engineer a weak attraction towards the cells. The latter is amplified several orders of magnitude when a cell of a closely matching size and shape fits into the imprint cavity which multiplies the contact area between the cell surface and the imprint. The particle imprints were optimised for their specificity toward blood cancer cells by treatment with oxygen plasma and then subsequent coatings with bPEI and Poloxamer 407 with various functionalisation concentrations. We tested the surface functionalised imprints for their specificity in retaining in vitro cultured human leukaemic cells (HL60) over healthy human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in a flow through chamber. The effect of the flushing flow rate of the mixed cell suspension over the particle imprint and the imprint length were also investigated. At each step the selectivity towards HL60 was assessed. Selective isolation of an increased amount of HL60 tumour cells over PBMC was ultimately achieved as a function of the cell seeding ratio on the particle imprint. The effect is attributed to the substantial size difference between the HL60 cell and the PBMCs. The data presented show that relatively inexpensive PMMA microbeads imprints can be utilised as a cell separation technique which could ultimately lead to novel therapies for removal of neoplastic cells from the peripheral blood of acute myeloid leukaemia patients.