There is increasing interest and demand in biology studies for identifying and characterizing rare cells or bioparticle subtypes. These subpopulations demonstrate special function, as examples, in multipotent proliferation, immune system response, and cancer diagnosis. Current techniques for separation and identification of these targets lack the accuracy and sensitivity needed to interrogate the complex and diverse bioparticle mixtures. High resolution separations of unlabeled and unaltered cells is an emerging capability. In particular, electric field-driven punctuated microgradient separations have shown high resolution separations of bioparticles. These separations are based on biophysical properties of the un-altered bioparticles. Here, the properties of the bioparticles were identified by ratio of electrokinetic (EK) to dielectrophoretic (DEP) mobilities.
As part of this dissertation, high-resolution separations have been applied to neural stem and progenitor cells (NSPCs). The abundance of NSPCs captured with different range of ratio of EK to DEP mobilities are consistent with the final fate trends of the populations. This supports the idea of unbiased and unlabeled high-resolution separation of NSPCs to specific fates is possible. In addition, a new strategy to generate reproducible subpopulations using varied applied potential were employed for studying insulin vesicles from beta cells. The isolated subpopulations demonstrated that the insulin vesicles are heterogenous and showed different distribution of mobility ratios when compared with glucose treated insulin vesicles. This is consistent with existing vesicle density and local concentration data. Furthermore, proteins, which are accepted as challenging small bioparticles to be captured by electrophysical method, were concentrated by this technique. Proteins including IgG, lysozyme, alpha-chymotrypsinogen A were differentiated and characterized with the ratio factor. An extremely narrow bandwidth and high resolution characterization technique, which is experimentally simple and fast, has been developed for proteins. Finally, the native whole cell separation technique has also been applied for Salmonella serotype identification and differentiation for the first time. The technique generated full differentiation of four serotypes of Salmonella. These works may lead to a less expensive and more decentralized new tool and method for transplantation, proteomics, basic research, and microbiologists, working in parallel with other characterization methods.