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Microfluidic systems for cell separation and analysis have attracted increasing research activity over the past decades. In particular, the prospect of integrating all steps from sample preparation to assay readout in a single microfluidic cartridge, which is inserted into a compact, portable and potentially low-cost instrument, bears great promise to leverage next-generation diagnostic products and to advance life-science research with novel cell and particle manipulation, and analysis tools. Within the range of microfluidic actuation principles available, the centrifugal force is exceptionally well suited for cell handling due to its rotationally induced ‘artificial gravity field’, which can be varied over several orders of magnitude and which can manipulate bioparticles even in the absence of flow. We will survey how the base centrifugal force has been combined with the hydrodynamic Stokes drag, magnetic, dielectrophoretic and other forces to enable multidimensional separation and manipulation. The same centrifugal microfluidic toolbox has also been applied to investigate particles such as biofunctionalized beads, bacteria and multicellular microorganisms. This review summarizes the significant progress in modular unit operations such as cell removal, filtering, lysis, separation, sorting, encapsulation, trapping, assaying, sensing, cytometry and detection, even derived from low-cost conventional optical disc drive technology (e.g., CD and DVD), towards integrated and automated centrifugal microfluidic platforms for the handling and analysis of cells and bioparticles.