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Contactless dielectrophoresis: a new technique for cell manipulation


Dielectrophoresis (DEP) has become a promising technique to separate and identify cells and microparticles suspended in a medium based on their size or electrical properties. Presented herein is a new technique to provide the non-uniform electric field required for DEP that does not require electrodes to contact the sample fluid. In our method, electrodes are capacitively-coupled to a fluidic channel through dielectric barriers; the application of a high-frequency electric field to these electrodes then induces an electric field in the channel. This technique combines the cell manipulation abilities of traditional DEP with the ease of fabrication found in insulator-based technologies. A microfluidic device was fabricated based on this principle to determine the feasibility of cell manipulations through contactless DEP (cDEP). We were able to demonstrate cell responses unique to the DEP effect in three separate cell lines. These results illustrate the potential for this technique to identify cells through their electrical properties without fear of contamination from electrodes.

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This work was supported by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS). Also the authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Eva M. Schmelz at the department of Human Nutrition, Foods, & Exercise and Phillip Andrew Zellner for their cooperation.

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Correspondence to Rafael V. Davalos.

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Shafiee, H., Caldwell, J.L., Sano, M.B. et al. Contactless dielectrophoresis: a new technique for cell manipulation. Biomed Microdevices 11, 997 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10544-009-9317-5

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  • BioMEMS
  • Biochip
  • Dielectrophoretic
  • Microfluidics
  • Sample handling
  • Electrorotation
  • Sample preparation