What is flow cytometry?
Last update: October 1st, 2019
Cytometry is a process in which physical and/or chemical characteristics of single cells, of other biological or nonbiological particles, are measured.
In flow cytometry, the measurements are made simultaneously as the cells or particles, suspended in fluid stream, pass individually through a beam of light of a measuring device, the flow cytometer. Some flow cytometers can physically separate cell subsets (sorting) based on their cytometric characteristics (cell sorters).
Flow cytometry can be used to count large numbers of cells or particles based on size, internal complexity, phenotype, cellular state, cell function, DNA content, gene expression, and to quantify these same cellular properties at a single-cell level. This allows to evaluate:
- Whether cells are present in a specimen
- How many are there
- What kinds of cells are they
- What their functional characteristics might be
Its working depends on the light scattering features of the cells under investigation, which may be derived from dyes or monoclonal antibodies targeting either extracellular molecules located on the surface or intracellular molecules inside the cell (see Flow Cytometry probes). This approach makes flow cytometry a powerful tool for detailed analysis of complex populations in a short period of time.
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