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Scientific Reports


Immunomagnetic assay combines the powers of the magnetic separation and biomarker recognition and has been an effective tool to perform rare Circulating Tumor Cells detection. Key factors associated with immunomagnetic assay include the capture rate, which indicates the sensitivity of the system, and distributions of target cells after capture, which impact the cell integrity and other biological properties that are critical to downstream analyses. Here we present a theoretical framework and technical approach to implement a microscale magnetic immunoassay through modulating local magnetic field towards enhanced capture and distribution of rare cancer cells. Through the design of a two-dimensional micromagnet array, we characterize the magnetic field generation and quantify the impact of the micromagnets on rare cell separation. Good agreement is achieved between the theory and experiments using a human colon cancer cell line (COLO205) as the capture targets.