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Jul 1, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 13)

Biomagnetic Separations' Abilities Increase

Major Product Expansions Are Surfacing to Support an Assortment of Applications

  • Microfluidics

    Cynvenio Biosystems has developed an integrated biomagnetic separations system using microfluidics technology and is commercializing it with a major life science partner. According to H. Tom Soh, Ph.D., CTO, the micromagnetics technology used in the system improves the purity, rare-cell recovery, and throughput of the separation, and allows multiple process steps to be integrated in a closed, disposable system.

    Previously, microfluidics technology was used for small sample volumes at relatively low throughputs. Cynvenio’s device, however, is scalable to throughputs exceeding 100 mL/hour in a single cartridge, which is ideal for clinical applications, Dr. Soh says. “We use miniaturization for features that give us large performance benefits. The throughput features, in contrast, are large to handle clinically relevant applications.”

    Cynvenio is focused on developing the cartridge technology, wrapping an open platform instrument around it, and adding push-button automation. Cartridges range in size from that of a glass slide to about the size of an iPhone. The current device will integrate the sample-prep and separation processes, and work is under way to automate postseparation steps as well, says André de Fusco, CEO. Specific applications remain proprietary. “More work on the reagent side will come next year.”

    A competing microfluidics biomagnetic separations device was just introduced by Life Technologies’ Invitrogen division. The MAGic™ Sample Processor processes up to 12 immunoprecipitations of His-tagged samples simultaneously using Dynabeads® technology. It uses a pipetting comb and cartridge format to reduce variability in manual sample and buffer preparation and handling, and features a heating and cooling mechanism to minimize sample degradation. Initial applications are in epigenetics and protein isolation, but the processor is designed to handle additional genomic and proteomic applications.

    Paul Pickering, Ph.D., GM of Invitrogen’s cell therapy systems, says the MAGic Sample Processor is receiving great interest, but other applications are also being developed. His area, for example, is working closely with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in basic and translational research for embryonic and pluripotent stem cells.

    “Translational work is not an easy process,” Dr. Pickering stresses. “The clinical research environment is more controlled than basic research.” Therefore, Life Technologies is upgrading its research products to accommodate those inherent variables.

    “The inability to ensure the total separation of potentially teratoma-forming stem cells has slowed translation of stem cell therapies. We’re on a path to developing a scalable system that would be meaningful for human clinical purposes.” This device, the Gibco CTS MPC, can handle the liters of cell suspensions required for clinical utility.

    For high-throughput molecular isolation, Miltenyi has introduced the MultiMACS M96 Thermo Separator. “It goes from cells to cDNA in 90 minutes in a 96-well format. There’s one workflow, one column, and no need for additional pipetting or precipitation,” Dr. Braun says, adding that the system increases sensitivity and decreases degradation and contamination. “It can be integrated with a robotic platform.”  

    A system introduced last year, the MACS Quant flow cytometer, now features enrichment capabilities. “Pre-enrichment of rare cells reduces analysis time without compromising the analysis sensitivity and shortens workflow.”

    PerkinElmer’s Janus® Automated Workstation offers full molecular biology capabilities, performing separations by biomagnetic, vacuum, or centrifugation technologies, according to Tim Cloutier, Ph.D., applications leader, automated solutions. There is a growing trend for nucleic acid separations to be done biomagnetically, he says, adding that nucleic acid separations are particularly important in forensics and that public health researchers and clinicians increasingly use DNA and RNA to identify strains of virus outbreaks and track mutations as they spread throughout a population. 

    “We’re able to work with magnetic and microfluidics, using our flexible, modular Janus platform to actually perform the separations.”  That capability, perhaps, isn’t readily advertised, but people in the field understand that biomagnetic separations would be included in a total molecular biology liquid-handling workstation, he says. The Janus workstation includes versions for forensics, oil prep, and chitosan bead-based autoplexing, with modules for microplate handling, reagent dispensing, third-party instrument integration, and more.

    At Ademtech the most recent advance replaces its Adem-MagMSV with the Modulo modular magnetic separators. The Modulo holds four microtubes of 1.5 mL or 2 mL and can incline those tubes to improve separation efficiency. The “brick” modules that hold the tubes can be added to the Modulo Classic to build an expandable  system while maintaining a homogenous magnetic force throughout the separator.

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