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Lab, Field, & Clinic
May 28, 2008

Engineers Invent Improved Cell-Sorter

JAMA. 2008;299(20):2378. doi:10.1001/jama.299.20.2378

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[4]: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.