Flow Cytometry

Applications of flow cytometry

Last update: October 1st, 2019

The two greatest advantages of flow cytometry are its ability to measure a large number of parameters (2 to 30 or more) on the same sample and its ability to collect information from millions of cells in a matter of seconds.

This analytical technique is a powerful tool for applications that include a significant number of cell analysis ranging from phenotyping to cell health and viability. For example:

  • Immunophenotyping– Using fluorescence-conjugated antibodies directed toward a protein(s) of interest, cells expressing that protein(s) on the surface or intracellularly may be detected by flow cytometry. Specific cell types may be distinguished within a mixed population using multiple fluorescence-conjugated antibodies.
  • Cell health status—from viability to late-stage apoptosis or programmed cell death
  • Cell cycle status—providing a powerful tool to assess cells in G0/G1 phase versus S phase, G2, or polyploidy, including analysis of cell proliferation and activation. Fluorescent intensity is used to determine the amount of cellular DNA present in each cell

Flow cytometry is frequently used in:

  • Onco-Hematology: cell absolute counts, diagnosis / prognosis and treatment monitoring of hematological diseases (leukemia and lymphoma), bone marrow analysis,  reticulocyte count .
  • Immunology: Identification and absolute counts of immune cell populations, cytokine analysis, tissue typing, lymphocyte stimulation.
  • Microbiology: bacterial and viral diagnosis, sensitivity to antibiotics.
  • Genetics: karyotype, carrier diagnosis, prenatal diagnosis.
  • Pharmacology: cell kinetics studies.



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  2. Cossarizza A, et al. Guidelines for the use of flow cytometry and cell sorting in immunological studies. Eur J Immunol. 2017 Oct;47(10):1584-1797. Go to publication
  3. Brown M and Wittwer C. Flow Cytometry: Principles and Clinical Applications in Hematology. Clinical Chemistry. 2000 April;46:8(B)1221–1229. Go to publication
  4. Howard M. Shapiro Practical flow cytometry, 4th ed. John Wiley hi Sons, Inc. 2003 August; 736 Pages. Go to publication