Microfluidic Interfacial Magnetic Separation (MIMS)

Tech ID: 29439 / UC Case 2018-325-0


UCLA researchers in the Department of Medicine and Bioengineering have developed a novel magnetic method for sorting cells.


The market for cell separation technologies is expected to reach $4.7 billion by 2020 and is highly relevant in the fields of life science and healthcare. Specifically, magnetic cell separation is experiencing high growth, due to its accuracy, reproducibility, and ease of use. However, magnetic activated cell sorting (MACS) requires an on-column technique and has limited quantitative discrimination between labeled cells. Therefore, there is a need for novel magnetic cell separation technologies that are quantitative yet efficient.


Professor Di Carlo and coworkers have developed a novel device for the isolation and concentration of magnetically tagged entities in a suspension of fluid, such as bacterial or eukaryotic cells. By using magnetic ratcheting, labeled cells can be extracted from blood or water into another suspension of fluid, resulting in purified and concentrated cells. The integrated assembly minimizes the possibility of contamination and is effective and easy to use. Additionally, cells stay within a fluid suspension at all times. Proof of concept experiments with whole blood from prostate cancer patients isolated labeled cells with an average purity of 74%.


  • Cell sorting


  • Integrated “lab on a chip” technology reduces likelihood of sample contamination 
  • Cells stay within a fluid suspension instead of on a column 
  • Isolated prostate circulating tumor cells from whole blood with average purity of 74% 
  • System can be easily optimized for large dynamic range of labels per cell

State Of Development

Using the device, supermagnetic particles (2.8 µm, 500 nm, and 100 nm) have been successfully extracted from water and whole blood samples into a poly(propylene glycol) solution. Labeled cells both from healthy donors and from prostate cancer patients have also been isolated with 74% purity.

Patent Status

Patent Pending

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  • Di Carlo, Dino

Other Information


Mechanical cell sorting, ratcheting, cell separation

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