Development of microfluidic chips allows to overcome some disadvantages of conventional cell sorting methodologies – FACS and MACS. Sort-on-a-chip is getting closer to the clinic! In this brief overview, I’ll highlight advantages of on-chip cell sorting and introduce few players on a market.

What are the advantages of on-chip cell sorting in comparison to FACS/ MACS?

  • no aerosol
  • higher viability (less cell damage via reduction of shear stress)
  • single use disposables
  • no contamination issues
  • easy to use
  • portable (compact) devices
  • potential for GMP-compliance
  • potential for closed system
  • possibility of label-free sorting

Most on-chip sorting systems are currently made for research. The ultimate goal, of course, is to bring on-chip cell sorting to the clinic. On this end, more work should be done to close system completely, address questions of sorting speed, scalability and cross-contamination. Let’s look what we have today on the market:

On-chip cell sorting available systems overview

Nanocellect Biomedical
Technology utilizes “a low voltage piezoelectric acuator“. Flow cytometer/ sorter – WOLF cell sorter (coming soon). For research use only.
Nanocellect promo video:

Sony Biotechnology
Sony Cell Sorter SH800 utilizes “Blu-ray Disc technology”. For research use only. Read more about chip and technology.

On-chip Biotechnologies
Technology: Chips with two sheath flow and “sorting by pulse flows”. Company sells analyzer, sorter and chips. For research use only.
On-chip Biotechnologies promo video:

Owl Biomedical (now part of Miltenyi Biotec)
Owl Biomedical was the first company, which made decision to bring on-chip sort to the clinic. The company developed closed system, high speed, scalable, GMP-compliant on-chip sorting. Technology based on micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS). Product: Nanosorter. The company was acquired by Miltenyi Biotec last year. Currently under clinical development.
Watch Owl Biomedical presentation:

To conclude: On-chip cell sorting field is developing very rapidly. Using disposable chips allow to overcome many disadvantages of conventional FACS technology. Cell sort on chip is currently moving from research applications to clinical use. Many technologies, which I didn’t mention in this review still under development in academic labs. Market of on-chip cell sorting here to stay and to grow!

PS: Special thanks to Eric Rentschler and Jun Seita.