Human bone cells, maintained in culture, have been subjected to partitioning in an aqueous two-phase system on a countercurrent distribution apparatus. A broad cell distribution was obtained indicating cell-surface heterogeneity. Two major cell populations were identified which appeared to be growing at different rates. The ‘fast’-growing cells had a less hydrophobic cell surface than the ‘slow’-growing cells. Possible relationships of these cell populations with osteoblast differentiation and the potential importance of this technique in studies of osteoblast differentiation are discussed.

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