Hybrid microfluidics combined with active and passive approaches for continuous cell separation
Microfluidics, which is classified as either active or passive, is capable of separating cells of interest from a complex and heterogeneous sample. Active methods utilise external fields such as electric, magnetic, acoustic, and optical to drive cells for separation, while passive methods utilise channel structures, intrinsic hydrodynamic forces, and steric hindrances to manipulate cells. However, when processing complex biological samples such as whole blood with rare cells, separation with a single module microfluidic device is difficult. Hybrid microfluidics is an emerging technique, which utilises active and passive methods whilst fulfilling higher requirements for stable performance, versatility, and convenience, including (i) the ability to process multi-target cells, (ii) enhanced ability for multiplexed separation, (iii) higher sensitivity, and (iv) tunability for a wider operational range. This review introduces the fundamental physics and typical formats for subclasses of hybrid microfluidic devices based on their different physical fields; presents current examples of cell sorting to highlight the advantage and usefulness of hybrid microfluidics on biomedicine, and then discusses the challenges and perspective of future development and the promising direction of research in this field.