Magnetic-activated cell sorting (MACS)
is a trademark name for a method for separation of various cell
populations depending on their surface antigens (CD molecules
). The term MACS is a registered trademark of Miltenyi Biotec.
The mixture of cells to be separated is incubated with magnetic
beads coated with antibodies
against a particular surface antigen. This causes the cells expressing this antigen to attach to the magnetic beads. Afterwards the cell solution is transferred on a column placed in a strong magnetic field. In this step, the cells attached to the beads (expressing the antigen) stay on the column, while other cells (not expressing the antigen) flow through. With this method, the cells can be separated positively or negatively with respect to the particular antigen(s).
In positive selection the cells expressing the antigen(s) of interest, which attached to the magnetic column, are washed out to a separate vessel, after removing the column from the magnetic field. This method is useful for isolation of a particular cell type, for instance CD4 lymphocytes
In negative selection the antibody used is against surface antigen(s) which are known to be present on cells that are not of interest. After administration of the cells/magnetic beads solution onto the column the cells expressing these antigens bind to the column and fraction that goes through is collected, as it contains almost no cells with undesired antigens.
Magnetic beads conjugated to an antibody against an antigen of interest are not always available, but there is a way to circumvent it. Since fluorophore
-conjugated antibodies are much more prevalent, it is possible to use magnetic beads coated with anti-fluorochrome antibodies. They are incubated with the fluorescent-labelled antibodies against the antigen of interest and may thus serve for cell separation with respect to the antigen.