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Magnetic bead cell sorting: Column-based or column-free?

   |  April 28, 2024

The two popular magnetic bead cell sorting technologies currently are column-based and column-free. Both methods can efficiently isolate high quality cells. So, what are the differences between the two?

Column-based sorting

The process of column-based sorting involves incubation, column passage, and elution, taking about 30 minutes. The specific steps are as follows:

The process of column-based sorting

Column-based sorting requires the sorting column, separation stand, and magnetic separator, employing small beads ranging from 20 to 50nm, with the advantage of high purity.

Column-free sorting

Column-free sorting

If column-free sorting is used, the process from incubation to separation typically takes between 8 to 25 minutes, as follows:

Addition of antibodies and incubation

Addition of magnetic beads and incubation

Magnetic pole adsorption for cell separation

Column-free sorting only utilizes a sorting magnetic pole without the need for a sorting column, paired with 100nm magnetic beads , offering the advantage of speed.

Table of Comparison

For a detailed comparison of specific differences, please refer to the large image

Column-based sortingColumn-free sorting
ProcessIncubation – Column passage – Elution (about 30 minutes)Incubation – Separation (8-25 minutes)
Consumables and devicesSorting column, sorting bracket, sorting magnetic poleSorting magnetic pole
Bead sizeSmall beads, 20-50nmMedium-sized beads ~100nm
AdvantageHigh purityFast speed

RWD Cell Sorting

Through the efforts of our R&D team, adjustments to the column packing material formulation and the formulation of the column-free sorting reagent kit have been made, enabling both sorting methods to efficiently and effectively sort high-purity cells. Column-based sorting can isolate low-abundance target cells from complex mixed cell samples, while column-free sorting has advantages in experiments involving complex surface antigen-labeled cell separation. Each sorting method has its own strengths.

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