Rare Cell Isolation

Rare cell populations are those that exist at extremely low abundance within a large population of background cells. Specific types of rare cells, such as circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and fetal cells in maternal samples, provide valuable analytical information and early detection that could ultimately replace invasive diagnostic procedures.

Due to their limited frequency, rare cells can be challenging to isolate. For example, CTC abundance is as low as one in one billion blood cells, and fetal cells can be even more rare. Traditionally, rare cells have been isolated via enrichment methods such as filtering and magnetic bead selection. However, these methods are unable to isolate pure populations of rare cells. To effectively isolate rare cells, high efficiency and sensitivity are essential.

Namocell’s Single Cell Dispensers have two patented sorting modes: enrichment sorting and single cell sorting. In combination, these two modes make it easy to isolate extremely rare cells from a mixed population. High-density samples containing the rare target cells are first suspended and loaded into Namocell’s microfluidic cell cartridge. Using the enrichment sorting mode, rare cells of interest are dispensed and collected into a single well, producing a pool of cells enriched for the target population. Subsequently, these enriched cells are loaded into a new cell cartridge and dispensed using the single cell sorting mode to be collected as singlets in a 96-well plate. Isolated rare cells can then be used in multiple downstream applications, such as genomic analysis or cell culture.

Namocell Benefits


Gentle sorting (< 2 psi) preserves cell viability


High recovery of rare cells, no sample loss


High throughput: process 3 million cells/min Work with sample density up to 150 million cells/mL


Sterile sorting, no cross-contamination, no clogging; Easy to use, zero maintenance

Dispensing Efficiency

Namocell Single Cell Dispensers are highly efficient and consistent at dispensing single cells (80-90% with mammalian cells) compared to manual pipetting (~30%).

Isolating Rare Cells

The Hana Single Cell Dispenser was used to isolate EpCAM+ cancer cells spiked into a background of white blood cells at a frequency of 1 in 10,000. Following single cell isolation, analysis of copy number variation across the genome confirmed successful isolation of the cancer cells (top panel), as compared with the background cells (bottom panel). As an internal control, the spiked-in cancer cells were female (XX) whereas the background cells were male (XY), as reflected in the results above.

What Scientists are Saying