Stem Cell Research & Therapy (Oct 2021)

Label-free separation of neuroblastoma patient-derived xenograft (PDX) cells from hematopoietic progenitor cell products by acoustophoresis

  • Franziska Olm,
  • Lena Panse,
  • Josefina H. Dykes,
  • Daniel Bexell,
  • Thomas Laurell,
  • Stefan Scheding

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 1
pp. 1 – 11


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Abstract Background Graft-contaminating tumor cells correlate with inferior outcome in high-risk neuroblastoma patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and can contribute to relapse. Motivated by the potential therapeutic benefit of tumor cell removal as well as the high prognostic and diagnostic value of isolated circulating tumor cells from stem cell grafts, we established a label-free acoustophoresis-based microfluidic technology for neuroblastoma enrichment and removal from peripheral blood progenitor cell (PBPC) products. Methods Neuroblastoma patient-derived xenograft (PDX) cells were spiked into PBPC apheresis samples as a clinically relevant model system. Cells were separated by ultrasound in an acoustophoresis microchip and analyzed for recovery, purity and function using flow cytometry, quantitative real-time PCR and cell culture. Results PDX cells and PBPCs showed distinct size distributions, which is an important parameter for efficient acoustic separation. Acoustic cell separation did not affect neuroblastoma cell growth. Acoustophoresis allowed to effectively separate PDX cells from spiked PBPC products. When PBPCs were spiked with 10% neuroblastoma cells, recoveries of up to 98% were achieved for PDX cells while more than 90% of CD34+ stem and progenitor cells were retained in the graft. At clinically relevant tumor cell contamination rates (0.1 and 0.01% PDX cells in PBPCs), neuroblastoma cells were depleted by more than 2-log as indicated by RT-PCR analysis of PHOX2B, TH and DDC genes, while > 85% of CD34+ cells could be retained in the graft. Conclusion These results demonstrate the potential use of label-free acoustophoresis for PBPC processing and its potential to develop label-free, non-contact tumor cell enrichment and purging procedures for future clinical use.