Magnetic cell sorting is an enabling tool for the isolation of specific cellular subpopulations for downstream applications and requires the cells to be labeled by a sufficient number of magnetic nanoparticles to leverage magnetophoresis for efficient separation. This requirement makes it challenging to target weakly expressed biomarkers. Here, we developed a new approach that selectively and efficiently amplifies the magnetic labeling on cells through sequentially connected antibodies and nanoparticles delivered to the surface or interior of the cell. Using this approach, we achieved amplification up to 100-fold for surface and intracellular markers. We also demonstrated the utility of this assay for enabling high-performance magnetic cell sorting when it is applied to the analysis of rare tumor cells for cancer diagnosis and the purification of transfected CAR T cells for immunotherapy. The data presented demonstrate a useful tool for the stratification of rare cell subpopulations.
Keywords: cancer diagnosis; cell sorting; cell therapy; magnetic nanoparticles; microfluidics.