Shedding Light on Cell Analysis: Flow Cytometry

14 February 2012
Flow cytometry equipment

Flow cytometry is a technology that uses light scatter and fluorescence to simultaneously measure and analyse multiple physical characteristics of single particles, usually cells, as they flow in a fluid stream through a beam of light. Flow cytometry has an important role in the translation of knowledge from the research setting to the clinical area, where it has become invaluable as a resource for both cell identification and isolation.

Researchers interested in cancer cells use fluorescent proteins to internalise (transfect) material into cells, such as DNA and RNA. Flow Cytometry uses lasers that optimally excite these fluorescent proteins, and provides the technology for cancer researchers to both analyse and sort these cells into tubes or plates for further in vivo or in vitro studies, proliferation assays or drug testing.

Flow cytometry has to-date been used in studies of cancer stem cells and side populations, ovarian cancer cells, epithelial cell migration, and cell signalling in cancer therapy. The technology has also identified free cancer cells in the blood from solid tumours, and was integral in the identification of the  breakdown pathway of the KRas protein.

The UNSW Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre Flow Cytometry Facility offers advanced flow cytometry technology, including the BD LSRFortessa™ Special Order Research Product (SORP) which can measure up to 21 cell properties and particles as small as 0.3µm. Other features of the facility include multi-laser instruments allowing characterisation of cancer cells with up to 18 fluorescent parameters to more accurately define the rare event populations, especially leukaemia cells and stem cells.

The facility provides comprehensive and technical cell analysis and sorting services to research groups throughout the wider Sydney area. TCRN members can learn more about the facility at, and can follow their Twitter feed @UNSWFlow.