Cell sorting

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Cell sorting is a method used to separate cells isolated from an organism's tissues according to their type. Cells are mostly commonly separated relying on differences in cell size, shape (morphology), and surface protein expression. The resulting homogenous populations of cells have important applications in research and as therapeutics.


Currently there are several methods for cell sorting. Some are primitive and do not require special equipment whereas others rely on sophisticated electronic appliances. Three major types of cell sorting are fluorescent activated cell sorting, magnetic cell selection and single cell sorting.

Single cell sorting[edit]

Single cell sorting provides a method for sorting a heterogeneous mixture of cells based upon intracellular and extracellular properties. There are several methods for sorting single cells:

  • The IsoRaft array provides a rapid, cost-effective method for isolating cells, analyzing cells over time, and generating clonal populations with the unique ability to monitor all intra- and extracellular properties.[1] This system is ideal for both adherent and non-adherent cell types.
  • The DEPArray lab-on-a-chip technology platform is designed to individually identify, manipulate and sort specific cells within a heterogeneous population based on intra- and extracellular properties, not including morphology. The DEPArray cell-sorting and isolation technology, followed by NGS analysis, can reveal comprehensive genomic information from any FFPE sample, regardless of sample cellularity and size of the specimen. Moreover, the methodology informs a new model for conducting clinical biopsies of tumors, as well as for performing translational cancer research and the way new cancer drugs are developed and biomarkers discovered.[2]

Fluorescent activated cell sorting[edit]

Fluorescent Activated Cell Sorting, or FACS, utilizes Flow cytometry to provide a fast, objective and quantitative measurement of intra- and extracellular properties, not including morphology, for sorting a heterogeneous mixture of cells.

Magnetic cell sorting[edit]

Magnetic cell sorting provides a method for enriching a heterogeneous mixture of cells based upon extracellular properties, typically cell-surface proteins (antigens). There are several types of magnetic cell sorting:

  • Magnetic-activated cell sorting (MACS) is a column based separation technique where labeled cells are passed through a magnetic column.[3]
  • SEP system provides a column-free cell separation technique in which a tube of labeled cells is placed inside a magnetic field.[4] Positively selected cells are retained in the tube while negatively selected cells are in the liquid suspension.

Buoyancy activated cell sorting[edit]

Buoyancy activated cell sorting (BACS), developed by Akadeum Life Sciences, is a separation technique in which microbubbles bind to cells through antibodies binding to the surface of cells. The targeted cells are then removed from a biological sample through flotation.[5]


  1. ^ "The Isoraft System" (website). Cell Microsystems. Retrieved 2013-03-19. 
  2. ^ "DEPArray Technology" (website). silicon biosystems. Retrieved 2013-03-19. 
  3. ^ "MACS" (website). Miltenyi Biotech. Retrieved 2013-03-19. 
  4. ^ "A simple one-step method for isolating highly purified plasmacytoid dendritic cells from human peripheral blood". Stem Cells Journal. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-12-20. Retrieved 2013-03-19. 
  5. ^ "Cell Separation Terminology, Uses, Methods and Technologies". Akadeum Life Sciences. Retrieved 2017-09-11. 

External links[edit]

- Magnetic Bead Cell Separation Ebook