There is strong demand for cell separation methods that do not decrease cell activity or modify cell surfaces. Here, new temperature-modulated cell-separation columns not requiring cell-surface premodification are described. The columns were packed with temperature-responsive cationic polymer hydrogel-modified silica beads. Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-n-butyl methacrylate-co-N,N-dimethylaminopropyl acrylamide) hydrogels with various cationic moieties were attached to silica-bead surfaces by radical polymerization using N,Nʹ-methylenebisacrylamide as a crosslinking agent. The beads were packed into solid-phase extraction columns, and temperature-dependent cell elution from the columns was found using HL-60 and Jurkat cells. The retention HL-60 and Jurkat cells in columns containing cationic beads at 37 °C was 95.3% to 99.6% and 95.0% to 98.8%, respectively. By contrast, beads without cationic properties exhibited low cell retention (20.6% for HL-60 and 32.5% for Jurkat cells). The cells were mainly retained through both electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions. The retained HL-60 (4.9%) and Jurkat cells (40%) were eluted at 4 °C from the column with a low composition of cationic monomer (DMAPAAm, 1 mol% in copolymer), because the temperature-responsive hydrogels on the beads became hydrophilic, decreasing the hydrophobic interactions between the cells and the beads. A higher number of Jurkat cells than HL-60 cells were eluted because of differences in their electrostatic properties (Jurkat cells: −2.53 mV; HL-60 cells: −20.7 mV). The results indicated that cell retention by the hydrogel-coated beads packed in a solid phase extraction column could be modulated simply by changing the temperature.
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