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.