Compounds and methods are disclosed for reversibly aggregating particles suspended in a liquid medium. The method comprises combining the liquid medium containing the particles with a polyionic polymer capable of aggregating the particles under conditions suitable for such aggregation. Thereafter, the particles are contacted with a chemical reagent capable of cleaving the polyionic polymer under conditions sufficient to reverse the aggregation. Optionally, magnetic particles are added to the liquid medium in the present method under conditions for non-specific binding and the medium including the aggregates is subjected to a magnetic field gradient to separate the aggregates from the medium. The compounds of the present invention are polyions. The aggregation of the particles is reversible upon contact with chemical agents which cleave at least some of the bonds within the polyionic polymer.
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