Our laboratory investigates novel methods of cell separation for medical applications including rapid screening for cancer cells in blood, and isolation of blood-forming stem cells. Magnetic flow sorting is studied in model cell systems of human peripheral lymphocytes, cultured cell lines, bone marrow, and peripheral blood primed for apheresis, in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center. The cell sorting performance depends on the specificity of magnetic nanoparticles used for cell tagging. The mechanics of cell sorting in a flow, in the presence of a magnetic field, is poorly understood. We study cell motion using a unique system, Cell Tracking Velocimetry (CTV), developed in collaboration with The Ohio State University. The characteristic cell velocities are correlated with the biophysical cell properties, such as cell size and cell surface marker expression used for binding of the magnetic nanoparticles to the wanted cells.
An interesting offshoot of the microscopic cell motion analysis in the magnetic field is the observation of natural cell mobility due to the presence of paramagnetic species inside the cell. In collaboration with the Center for Global Health and Diseases at CWRU, we have demonstrated increased mobility of the malaria parasite-infected red blood cells, and its dependence on the parasite development stage. The method has been tested in the field in the malaria endemic region of Papua-New Guinea.