Importance and uses of cell isolation
There are many different types of cells, there are 200 types of cells in the human body alone. To give an example overview of the types of cells, there are red blood cells, white blood cells, muscle cells, bone cells, nerve cells and many more. In order to study all the individual cell types, scientists use cell isolation to get specific cells alone to study them. There are many reasons to study a cell, from the internal to external mechanisms. For example, some researchers study the motility of cells. They explore how the cells move and how the cytoskeleton plays a role in those movements. Experiments can also be done that give the cells certain molecules and the effects of those molecules on motility can be observed. Scientists are also interested in studying how cells divide and study if certain gene mutations cause differences in how cells divide. For those interested in clinical reasons for cell isolation, it is important to do cell isolation for blood to separate the components into useful therapeutic components.
Cell isolation techniques
There are several types of cell isolation techniques that vary in cost and difficulty. Density gradient centrifugation is used in many labs to separate cells. This helps separate cells by shape and size. But this is a delicate procedure that requires time to centrifuge. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting or FACS has become a popular way to do cell isolation. A FACS machine sorts using fluorescence and antibodies to detect specific surface markers on cells as they pass one by one. The downside of FACS is that the process can be slow and the biggest deterrent is usually the cost of the technique. FACS is expensive because of the equipment itself and because you need personnel to run it, for this reason it is often found within a technology core facility in an institution. Magnetic separation is also a popular technique for cell isolation. Let’s discuss magnetic cell isolation in greater detail.
Cell isolation with magnetic separation
Modern magnetic separators offer many advantages. They come in a range of sizes from milliliter to 50 Liter containers. This makes it available on a research and clinical scale for many types of cell isolation protocols. It is also inexpensive and efficient. The process is simple and the equipment and reagents don’t require special training. You can read more about a specific way to do cell isolation in our article magnetic beads antibody conjugation. Just as with other techniques, an antibody specific to a surface marker on the surface of a cell can be used to pick the cell out of a mixture. For example, magnetic beads can be pre-conjugated with antibodies, then added to a cell mixture to allow the antibodies to bind the cells of interest. Then the cells of interest can be isolated through the magnetic separation protocol. Lastly, one more consideration for cell isolation is whether it will be optimal to do negative or positive selection. The difference is whether you use your magnets and separator to bind and remove unwanted material, negative selection or if you want to bind your wanted cells with the magnets and discard all other unwanted material. Either protocol is simple with magnetic separators.