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Title: Label-free cell sorting strategies via biophysical and biochemical gradients
Authors: Chen, Z 
Luo, X 
Zhao, X 
Yang, M 
Wen, C 
Keywords: Cell sorting
Stem cells
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Elsevier
Source: Journal of orthopaedic translation, 2019, v. 17, p. 55-63 How to cite?
Journal: Journal of orthopaedic translation 
Abstract: Isolating active mesenchymal stem cells from a heterogeneous population is an essential step that determines the efficacy of stem cell therapy such as for osteoarthritis. Nowadays, the gold standard of cell sorting, fluorescence-activated cell sorting, relies on labelling surface markers via antibody–antigen reaction. However, sorting stem cells with high stemness usually requires the labelling of multiple biomarkers. Moreover, the labelling process is costly, and the high operating pressure is harmful to cell functionality and viability. Although label-free cell sorting, based on physical characteristics, has gained increasing interest in the past decades, it has not shown the ability to eliminate stem cells with low stemness. Cell motility, as a novel sorting marker, is hence proposed for label-free sorting active stem cells. Accumulating evidence has demonstrated the feasibility in manipulating directional cell migration through patterning the biophysical, biochemical or both gradients of the extracellular matrix. However, applying those findings to label-free cell sorting has not been well discussed and studied. This review thus first provides a brief overview about the effect of biophysical and biochemical gradients of the extracellular matrix on cell migration. State-of-the-art fabrication techniques for generating such gradients of hydrogels are then introduced. Among current research, the authors suggest that hydrogels with dual-gradients of biochemistry and biophysics are potential tools for accurate label-free cell sorting with satisfactory selectivity and efficiency. Translational potential of this article: The reviewed label-free cell sorting approaches enable us to isolate active cell for cytotherapy. The proposed system can be further modified for single-cell analysis and drug screening.
ISSN: 2214-031X
DOI: 10.1016/
Rights: © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier (Singapore) Pte Ltd on behalf of Chinese Speaking Orthopaedic Society. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (
The following publication Chen, Z., Luo, X., Zhao, X., Yang, M., & Wen, C. (2019). Label-free cell sorting strategies via biophysical and biochemical gradients. Journal of Orthopaedic Translation is available at
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