Published in Hemotology
Saturday, 29 July 2017 15:37
Box 807.1 Properties of a cell measured by a flow cytometerFlow cytometry is a procedure used for measuring multiple cellular and fluorescent properties of cells when they flow as a single cell suspension through a laser beam by a specialized instrument called as a flow cytometer. Flow cytometry can analyze numerous cells in a short time and multiple parameters of a single cell can be analyzed simultaneously. From the measured parameters, specific cell populations are defined. Cells or particles with size 0.2-150 μm are suitable for flow cytometer analysis.
Flow cytometry can provide following information about a cell (Box 807.1):
  • Cell size (forward scatter)
  • Internal complexity or granularity (side scatter)
  • Relative fluorescence intensity.
A flow cytometer consists of three main components or systems: fluidics, optics, and electronics.
(1) Fluidics: The function of the fluidics system is to transport cells in a stream to the laser beam for interrogation. Cells (fluorescence-tagged) are introduced into the cytometer (injected into the sheath fluid within the flow chamber) and made to flow in a single file past a laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) beam. The stream transporting the cells should be positioned in the center of the laser beam. The portion of the fluid stream where the cells are located is called as the sample core. Only a single cell or particle should pass through the laser beam at one time. Flow cytometers use the principle of hydrodynamic focusing (process of centering the sample core within the sheath fluid) for presenting cells to the laser.
(2) Optics: This system consists of lasers for illumination of cells in the sample, and filters to direct the generated light signals to the appropriate detectors.
The light source used in most flow cytometers is laser.
The laser most commonly used in flow cytometry is Argon-ion laser. The light signals are generated when the laser beam strikes the cell, which are then collected by appropriately positioned lenses. A system of optical mirrors and filters then directs the specified wavelengths of light to the designated detectors. Two types of light signals are generated when the laser beam strikes cells tagged with fluorescent molecules: fluorescence and light scatter. The cells tagged with fluorescence emit a momentary pulse of fluorescence; in addition, two types of light scatter are measured: forward scatter (proportional to cell diameter) and side scatter (proportional to granularity of cell).
(3) Electronics: The optical signals (photons) are converted to corresponding electronic signals (electrons) by the photodetectors (photodiodes and photomultiplier tubes). The electronic signal produced is proportional to the amount of light striking a cell. The electric current travels to the amplifier and is converted to a voltage pulse. The voltage pulse is assigned a digital value representing a channel by the Analog-to Digital Converter (ADC). The channel number is then transferred to the computer which displays it to the appropriate position on the data plot.
Further Reading:


Published in Hemotology
Saturday, 29 July 2017 15:09
A fluorochrome absorbs light energy and emits excess energy in the form of photon light (fluorescence). Fluorescence is the property of molecules to absorb light at one wavelength and emit light at a longer wavelength. The fluorescent dyes commonly used in flow cytometry are fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) and phycoerythrin (PE). The fluorochrome-labeled antibodies are used for detection of antigenic markers on the surface of cells. A particular cell type can be identified on the basis of the antigenic profile expressed. Multiple fluorochromes can be used to identify different cell types in a mixed population of cells.
Light Scatter
Light is scattered when the incident light is deflected by a particle traversing through a beam of light. This depends on the physical properties of the cell. Two forms of light scatter are used to identify different cell types: forward scatter and side scatter. Forward scatter (light scattered in the same direction as the laser beam) is related to cell size. Side scatter (light scattered at a 90° angle to the laser beam) is related to internal granularity of the cell. Main subpopulations of leukocytes are identified on the basis of correlated measurements of forward and side scatters. When a cell passes through laser beam, side scatter and fluorescent signals that are emitted by the cell are directed to photomultiplier tubes, while the forward scatter signals are directed to a photodiode. Photomultiplier tubes and photodiodes are called as detectors. Optical filters are placed before the detectors that allow only a narrow range of wavelengths to reach the detectors (see Figure 806.1).
Figure 806.1 Principle of working of a flow cytometer
Figure 806.1 Principle of working of a flow cytometer
Data Analysis
The data collected and stored in the computer can be displayed in various formats. A parameter means forward scatter, or side scatter, or emitted fluorescence from a particle as it passes through a laser beam. A histogram is a data plot of a single parameter, with the parameter’s signal value in channel numbers or relative fluorescence intensity on X-axis (horizontal axis) and number of events on the Y-axis. A dot plot is a two parameter data graph in which each dot represents one event that the flow cytometer analyzed; one parameter is displayed on the X-axis and the other on the Y-axis. A 3-D plot represents one parameter on X-axis, another parameter on Y-axis, and number of events per channel on Z-axis.
A gate is a boundary that can be set to restrict the analysis to a specific population within the sample. For example, a gate boundary can be drawn on a dot plot or histogram to restrict the analysis only to cells with the size of lymphocytes. Gates can be inclusive (selection of events that fall within the boundary) or exclusive (selection of events that fall outside the boundary). Data selected by the gate is then displayed in subsequent plots.
Usually, when a cell passes through the laser beam, it is sent to waste. Sorting consists of collecting cells of interest (defined through criteria of size and fluorescence) for further analysis (such as microscopy or functional or chemical analysis). Sorting feature is available only in some flow cytometers.


Published in Hemotology
Friday, 28 July 2017 17:59
  1. Leukemias and lympomas: Immunophenotyping (evaluation of cell surface markers), diagnosis, detection of minimal residual disease, and to identify prognostically important subgroups.
  2. Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria: Deficiency of CD 55 and CD 59.
  3. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: Enumeration of CD34+ stem cells.
  4. Feto-maternal hemorrhage: Detection and quantitation of foetal hemoglobin in maternal blood sample.
  5. Anemias: Reticulocyte count.
  6. Human immunodeficiency virus infection: For enumeration of CD4+ lymphocytes.
  7. Histocompatibility cross matching.

History of Flow Cytometry

Published in Biomedical Engineering
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 19:08

The first fluorescence-based flow cytometry device (ICP 11) was developed in 1968 by Wolfgang Göhde from the University of Münster, Germany and first commercialized in 1968/69 by German developer and manufacturer Partec through Phywe AG in Göttingen. At that time, absorption methods were still widely favored by other scientists over fluorescence methods. The original name of the flow cytometry technology was pulse cytophotometry (German: Impulszytophotometrie). Only 10 years later in 1978, at the Conference of the American Engineering Foundation in Pensacola, Florida, the name was changed to flow cytometry, a term that quickly became popular. Soon after, flow cytometry instruments were developed, including the Cytofluorograph (1971) from Bio/Physics Systems Inc. (later: Ortho Diagnostics), the PAS 8000 (1973) from Partec, the first FACS instrument from Becton Dickinson (1974), the ICP 22 (1975) from Partec/Phywe and the Epics from Coulter (1977/78).

Principle of flow cytometry

A beam of light (usually laser light) of a single wavelength is directed onto a hydrodynamically-focused stream of fluid. A number of detectors are aimed at the point where the stream passes through the light beam: one in line with the light beam (Forward Scatter or FSC) and several perpendicular to it (Side Scatter (SSC) and one or more fluorescent detectors).

Each suspended particle from 0.2 to 150 micrometers passing through the beam scatters the light in some way, and fluorescent chemicals found in the particle or attached to the particle may be excited into emitting light at a longer wavelength than the light source. This combination of scattered and fluorescent light is picked up by the detectors, and, by analyzing fluctuations in brightness at each detector (one for each fluorescent emission peak), it is then possible to derive various types of information about the physical and chemical structure of each individual particle.

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