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A New Generation of Flow Cytometers Advances Multiomics

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Flow cytometry allows the analysis of physical and biochemical features of cells. Advances in machine that can characterize and sort cells will allow researchers to look deeper than ever before into the proteome and transcriptome. We talk with Bob Balderas, VP Market Development at BD on how cutting-edge machines like the FACSymphony S6 cell sorter incorporate new technology and advance multiomics research. 

Ruairi Mackenzie (RM): How can cell sorters advance multiomics research?

Bob Balderas (BB): Advanced cell sorters like the BD FACSymphony S6 cell sorter with high detection sensitivity enable scientists to conduct deep and broad phenotyping. This advances multiomics research by allowing researchers to explore the dynamics of proteomic and transcriptomic characteristics of the single cell to ultimately improve understanding of disease processes. The development of high dimensional sorting capabilities will allow deep sub-setting of rare populations using many more antibody/dye combinations.  In addition, scientists will also be able to sort new populations of cells, not described before, and analyze them for functional status.  With index sorting and increasing the sort depth, the BD FACSymphony S6 cell sorter, when combined with the sequencing technologies, will allow a more advanced interrogation of a cell at the single cell level. 

RM: The BD FACSymphonyTM S6 cell sorter leverages elements of its cousin, the BD FACSymphony cell analyzer. How will incorporating elements of an analyzer help improve cell sorting techniques?

BB: The BD FACSymphony A5 cell analyzer provides the foundation for the new BD FACSymphony S6 cell sorter. The initial system will provide up to 30 parameters of detection, including FSC and SSC, and is designed to be scalable for expanded parameter detection in the future.  It also provides 6 way and index sorting capabilities and can be set up with the same number of spatially separated lasers as the A5 analyzer. Since the two systems share the same electronics and similar optical components, these systems allow scientists already using the BD FACSymphony A5 cell analyzer to move their analytical multicolor, high dimensional designed panels directly into a sorting application with the BD FACSymphony S6 cell sorter. This workflow bridge between the two systems can save labs time and money because they won’t have to design a new panel.

RM: You’ve incorporated an electronics system from the defense industry into the BD FACSymphony instruments. Tell us how a military system can benefit cell analysis.

BB:The BD FACSymphony S6 cell sorter uses a VPX electronics system. The electronic system allows a reduction in electronic noise, enabling us to get closer to the level of the autofluorescence of a cell, which is critical for the instrument’s sensitivity. 

RM: Advances in the technology of flow cytometers and sorters often result in increases in the number of parameters that can be analyzed.  However, the time and complexity of staining protocols for 30 parameters is a limiting factor in researchers’ ability to leverage this power. Do you see advances in staining protocol matching the progress in analysis technology?

BB: BD tries to make the process as easy as possible by offering a complete solution from the antibody/dye combinations, regents, instruments and software.  We continue to innovate to offer best-in-class offerings across this portfolio including BD Horizon BrilliantTM dyes, BD OptiBuildTM reagents, and FlowJo® software in addition to our instruments.  

Bob Balderas was speaking to Ruairi J Mackenzie, Science Writer for Technology Networks