sorting cells image

A flexible cell squeezing between microsopic pillars - as small cells pass through. © Fulton Design

The ability to separate cells according to size and shape is extremely useful. One popular method involves the use of ‘micropillars’ which act as a kind of sieve for cells.

Small cells are able to pass through the narrow gaps between pillars, while cells that are too large bump into them. This technique can be used to sort blood samples, for example, into platelets, white cells and red cells.

However, a limitation of the technique is that cells that are flexible in structure, like the cell in this image, are often sorted incorrectly, as they can squeeze in between the pillars. Researchers at the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing have created a two-dimensional computer model to examine the different possible routes taken by flexible cells through the device pillars.

The model can accurately predict the paths taken by different types of cells, which are affected by the orientation, arrangement and size of the pillars. Team leader Keng-Hwee Chiam explains, “This shows us what design parameters to avoid, and could benefit future biological technologies.”

For further information contact:

Dr Keng-Hwee Chiam
Institute of High Performance Computing
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore