Flow Cytometry

Flow cytometry (FC) is a technique used to detect and measure physical and chemical characteristics of a population of cells or particles.

In this process, a sample containing cells or particles is suspended in a fluid and injected into the flow cytometer instrument. The sample is focused to ideally flow one cell at a time through a laser beam, where the light scattered is characteristic to the cells and their components. Cells are often labeled with fluorescent markers so light is absorbed and then emitted in a band of wavelengths. Tens of thousands of cells can be quickly examined and the data gathered are processed by a computer.

Flow cytometry is routinely used in basic research, clinical practice, and clinical trials. Uses for flow cytometry include:

  • Cell counting
  • Cell sorting
  • Determining cell characteristics and function
  • Detecting microorganisms
  • Biomarker detection
  • Protein engineering detection
  • Diagnosis of health disorders such as blood cancers

A flow cytometry analyzer is an instrument that provides quantifiable data from a sample. Other instruments using flow cytometry include cell sorters which physically separate and thereby purify cells of interest based on their optical properties.