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Published On: January 25th, 2024Categories: Articles, Flow Cytometry

Flow cytometry has several uses but is prominent in clinical diagnostics. It is a laboratory test that analyzes the characteristics of particles or cells, and it can analyze and process up to 10,000 cells in less than one minute—one of the amazing outcomes of laboratory automation. In general, flow cytometry in clinical diagnostics involves placing the cells in fluid and injecting them into a flow cytometry machine. The test has helped revolutionize disease and detection because of how many articles it can process simultaneously. Read on to learn more about flow cytometry in clinical diagnostics, its applications, and the tools needed to perform the test.

Flow Cytometry in Clinical Diagnostics: How Flow Cytometry Aids in Disease Detection

As you’ll learn below, flow cytometry in clinical diagnostics has many applications, but cytometry is very important to disease detection. Technicians and researchers can use flow cytometry experiments to count and characterize white blood cell (WBC) types to evaluate autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases, and immunodeficiencies.

The test is often given to a patient who has already had a complete blood count (CBC) test, which is often part of a patient’s yearly physical. If the physician sees abnormalities related to WBCs, they may order a flow cytometry test for the patient. The test can also be used to detect the presence of leukemia or lymphoma. Flow cytometry in clinical diagnostics is imperative to the early detection concerning serious conditions.

Flow Cytometry in Clinical Diagnostics: Applications of Flow Cytometry

In addition to disease detection, flow cytometry has other applications, which renders it a handy diagnostic tool. Some of the other applications of flow cytometry include

  • Determining characteristics of a cell
  • Finding biomarkers
  • Cell counting
  • Detecting microorganisms like yeast, fungus, or bacteria
  • Cell sorting

Whenever a physician may want to learn more about a patient’s cell characteristics or if a scientist is researching infectious disease, flow cytometry in clinical diagnostics can be used.

Flow Cytometry in Clinical Diagnostics: Laboratory Tools

How does a flow cytometer work? It has three distinct parts: the fluidics system, the optical system, and the electronic components. The fluidics system transfers the cell sample to the sample tube and flow cell. When the sample is moved past the laser (flow cell), the sample is sorted or transferred to waste through a gate.

The optical system provides the photocurrent, including excitation light sources, lenses, and filters. This system sends the photocurrent to the electronic components (computer).

The computer then digitizes and examines the photocurrent, and it is processed and saved. After this final process, a technician can read the results.

If you wanted to practice flow cytometry for clinical diagnostics in your laboratory, beyond basic lab equipment, all that is required is the flow cytometry machine(s) itself. Cytometers can differ, however, and some may be complete standalone machines that perform all of the functions of flow cytometry, while other labs may have two separate machines: a cell sorter and a bioanalyzer (cell analyzer). Labs can integrate these two machines to perform flow cytometry.