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Anal Chem. 2013 Jul 2;85(13):6213-8. doi: 10.1021/ac4006149. Epub 2013 Jun 13.

Label-free cancer cell separation from human whole blood using inertial microfluidics at low shear stress.

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Department of Bio and Brain Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, 291 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 305-701, Republic of Korea.


We report a contraction-expansion array (CEA) microchannel device that performs label-free high-throughput separation of cancer cells from whole blood at low Reynolds number (Re). The CEA microfluidic device utilizes hydrodynamic field effect for cancer cell separation, two kinds of inertial effects: (1) inertial lift force and (2) Dean flow, which results in label-free size-based separation with high throughput. To avoid cell damages potentially caused by high shear stress in conventional inertial separation techniques, the CEA microfluidic device isolates the cells with low operational Re, maintaining high-throughput separation, using nondiluted whole blood samples (hematocrit ~45%). We characterized inertial particle migration and investigated the migration of blood cells and various cancer cells (MCF-7, SK-BR-3, and HCC70) in the CEA microchannel. The separation of cancer cells from whole blood was demonstrated with a cancer cell recovery rate of 99.1%, a blood cell rejection ratio of 88.9%, and a throughput of 1.1 × 10(8) cells/min. In addition, the blood cell rejection ratio was further improved to 97.3% by a two-step filtration process with two devices connected in series.

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