An assembly for separating lymphocytes and monocytes from granulocytes in a sample of unseparated whole blood. A water insoluble, thixotropic gel-like substance, which is chemically inert to blood constituents is provided in a container. A fluid capable of altering blood cell densities and diameters is positioned above the surface of the water-insoluble thixotropic gel-like substance. Means for preventing the absorption of water by the thixotropic gel-like substance from the fluid and/or the sample of unseparated whole blood prior to separation are provided to substantially eliminate the influence of water absorption on the cell separation performance characteristics of said thixotropic gel-like substance. A method for separating lymphocytes and monocytes from granulocytes which inhibits the apparent shift of the buoyant density of the granulocytes and which substantially eliminates the influence of water absorption on the cell separation performance characteristics of the thixotropic gel-like substance is also disclosed.
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