Prototype of a Magnetic Separator

Prototype of a Magnetic Separator

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Description (Brief)
The bone marrow stem cell isolator, used to separate out bone marrow stem cells from blood samples, found its beginnings in 1981 when Dr. Curt Civin at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center identified an antibody that binds to a protein on the surface of bone marrow stem cells. The antibody provided a unique way to identify bone marrow stem cells among mixtures of different kinds of cells. Bone marrow stem cells, also known as progenitor cells, have the capability to develop into any of the various blood cell types, including those which play a vital role in the immune response.
In 1988 Dr. Alan Hardwick, a bioengineer at Baxter Healthcare Corporation’s Biotech Group in Santa Ana, California, designed and built a prototype bone marrow stem cell isolator using Dr. Civin’s antibody. Hardwick bound the antibody to small beads, and then placed the beads in solution with a mixture of blood cells. The antibody coated beads bound only to the bone marrow stem cells, and could be separated from the rest of the blood cell solution with the use of a magnet. Once the stem cell-bound beads were separated out, an enzyme could be used to remove the cells from the antibody beads, providing a pure sample of bone marrow stem cells. This object is a second-round prototype of the machine, developed in 1989.
The machine, under the brand name “Isolex,” was on the market starting in 1992. Although it was specifically marketed as a way to build stem cell reserves to replace the blood and immune systems in cancer patients whose own systems were destroyed by chemotherapy, the machine was also popular in experimental research projects, such as gene therapy, that often use stem cells.
Accession File
“Companies Use Many Methods to Select Elusive Stem Cells.” Hugh McIntosh. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Vol. 88. No. 9. 1 May 1996. p.573.
“Varmus to Rule in Fight Over Cell-Sorting Technology.” Eliot Marshall. Science. Vol. 276. 6 June 1997.
Isolex Magnetic Cell Selection System Instructions.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Bone Marrow Stem Cell Isolator
date made
Johns Hopkins University
Hardwick, Alan
Hardwick, Alan
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 17.2 cm x 25.4 cm x 50.2 cm; 6 3/4 in x 10 in x 19 3/4 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Baxter Healthcare Corporation, Biotech Group, Immunotherapy Division
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Health & Medicine
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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