Quantification of Cellular Densities and Antigenic Properties using Magnetic Levitation

J Vis Exp. 2021 May 17:(171). doi: 10.3791/62550.


The described method was developed based on the principles of magnetic levitation, which separates cells and particles based on their density and magnetic properties. Density is a cell type identifying property, directly related to its metabolic rate, differentiation, and activation status. Magnetic levitation allows a one-step approach to successfully separate, image and characterize circulating blood cells, and to detect anemia, sickle cell disease, and circulating tumor cells based on density and magnetic properties. This approach is also amenable to detecting soluble antigens present in a solution by using sets of low- and high-density beads coated with capture and detection antibodies, respectively. If the antigen is present in solution, it will bridge the two sets of beads, generating a new bead-bead complex, which will levitate in between the rows of antibody-coated beads. Increased concentration of the target antigen in solution will generate a larger number of bead-bead complexes when compared to lower concentrations of antigen, thus allowing for quantitative measurements of the target antigen. Magnetic levitation is advantageous to other methods due to its decreased sample preparation time and lack of dependance on classical readout methods. The image generated is easily captured and analyzed using a standard microscope or mobile device, such as a smartphone or a tablet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Antigens / analysis*
  • Blood Cells* / chemistry
  • Blood Cells* / cytology
  • Blood Cells* / immunology
  • Cell Count
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Phenomena
  • Magnetics*
  • Smartphone*


  • Antigens