A new principle of cell sorting by using selective electroporation in a modified flow cytometer

Tom C. Bakker schut, Bart G. de Grooth, Jan Greve

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    When a strong electric field pulse of a few microseconds is applied to biological cells, small pores are formed in the cell membranes; this process is called electroporation. At high field strengths and/or long pulse durations the membranes will be damaged permanently. This eventually leads to cell kill. We have developed a modified flow cytometer in which one can electroporate individual cells selected by optical analysis. The first experiments with this flow cytometer were designed to use it as a damaging sorter; we used electric pulses of 10 s and resulting field strengths of 2.0 and 3.2 X 106 V/m to kill K562 cells and lymphocytes respectively. The hydrodynamically focused cells are first optically analyzed in the usual way in a square flow channel. At the end of this channel the cells are forced to flow through a small Coulter orifice, into a wider region. If optical analysis indicates that a cell is unwanted, the cell is killed by applying a strong electric field across the Coulter orifice. The wanted living cells can be subsequently separated from the dead cells and cell fragments by a method suitable for the particular application (e.g., centrifugation, cell growth, density gradient, etc.). The results of these first experiments demonstrate that by using very simple equipment, sorting by selective killing with electric fields is possible at rates of 1,000 cells/s with a purity of the sorted fraction of 99.9%.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)659-666
    Number of pages8
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1990


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