Flow cytometry was originally established as an automated method for measuring optical or fluorescence characteristics of cells or particles in suspension. With the enormous increase in development of reliable electronics, lasers, micro-fluidics, as well as many advances in immunology and other fields, flow cytometers have become user-friendlier, less-expensive instruments with an increasing importance for both basic research and clinical applications. Conventional uses of flow cytometry include immunophenotyping of blood cells and the analysis of the cell cycle. Importantly, methods for labeling microbeads with unique combinations of fluorescent spectral signatures have made multiplex analysis of soluble analytes (i.e. the ability to detect multiple targets in a single test sample) feasible by flow cytometry. The result is a rapid, high-throughput, sensitive, and reproducible detection technology for a wide range of biomedical applications requiring detection of proteins (in cells and biofluids) and nucleic acids. Thus, novel methods of flow cytometry are becoming important for diagnostic purposes (e.g. identifying multiple clinical biomarkers for a wide range of diseases) as well as for developing novel therapies (e.g. elucidating drug mechanisms and potential toxicities). In addition, flow cytometry for multiplex analysis, coupled with automated sample handling devices, has the potential to significantly enhance proteomics research, particularly analysis of post-translational modifications of proteins, on a large scale. Inherently, flow cytometry methods are strongly rooted in the laws of the physics of optics, fluidics, and electromagnetism. This review article describes principles and early sources of flow cytometry, provides an introduction to the multiplex microbead technology, and discusses its applications and advantages in comparison to other methods. Anticipated future directions, particularly for translational research in medicine, are also discussed.
- Flow cytometry
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology