Searching for rare cells circulating in the blood is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. But researchers have recently developed a new and efficient technique for sorting cells, an innovation that could help advance science in a number of clinical fields, from oncology to stem cell research (Karnik R et al. Nano Lett. 2008;8:1153-1158).
The new approach differs from other cell-sorting methods that involve an array of laboratory equipment and require several different steps to achieve cell separation. One of the most commonly used cell-sorting techniques, called fluorescence-activated cell sorting, separates a heterogeneous mixture of cells 1 cell at a time, based on the specific light scattering and fluorescent characteristics of each cell. Other techniques use magnetic fields or differences in particle buoyancy and density to separate out particular cells.
Hampton T. Engineers Invent Improved Cell-Sorter. JAMA. 2008;299(20):2378. doi:10.1001/jama.299.20.2378