Shared Resource Spotlight: Flow Cytometry

April 27, 2020

By Remi Creusot, PhD, Director of the Flow Cytometry Shared Resource at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and team

Flow cytometry enables quantitative measurement of single-cell properties through visible and fluorescent light in a high-throughput manner. As this technique continues to evolve, cancer researchers have been able to utilize flow cytometry to study the development and progression of cancer in order to improve patient care and ultimately develop curative treatment options. With the emerging of cancer immunology, flow cytometry has further empowered cancer-related research in multiple dimensions.

The Flow Cytometry Shared Resource (FCSR) at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) supports a wide variety of studies related to cancer biology, functional genomics and tumor immunology using the newest techniques.

Six members of the Flow Cytometry Shared Resource stand in their lab
The Flow Cytometry Resource at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center uses novel technologies to support a wide variety of research projects.

In recent years, tissue organoids have emerged as an innovative tool across medical research. Organoids are tiny three-dimensional multi-cellular tissue cultures that can be crafted to closely resemble corresponding in vivo organs. This approach also allows genetic modification of human stem/progenitor cells prior to differentiation into tissues of choice for study (e.g. Shen and Abate-Shen labs). Cell sorting by the FCSR provides researchers with high purity modified progenitor cells that they can be cultured into organoids.

The FCSR can not only analyze or sort cells, but can also detect and sort submicron particles, such as synaptosomes (e.g., Sims lab) or extracellular vesicles. Our scientists use new techniques in flow cytometry to offer researchers another level of precision.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCSR has continued to operate, ensuring calibration of reserved analyzers and performing cell sorts. In addition, the FCSR has helped support COVID-19 research efforts, reviewing protocols with researchers and our Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) team to make sure that they can acquire samples safely.

One of our cell sorters has been dedicated to sort patient samples from convalescent donors. Investigators collect blood cells and sort plasmocytes, which are the cells that produce antibodies. The aim is to isolate and immortalize the cells that produce antibodies against SARS-CoV2 in order to produce larger amount of life-saving serum without the need of further donors. With the help of EH&S and Facilities, the room has been upgraded to support these studies according to Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Health, and the International Society for Advancement of Cytometry guidelines.

The FCSR strives to offer the most advanced capabilities in the phenotypic and functional analysis of populations of cells at the single cell level. To this end, we will be replacing a few instruments that will reach obsolescence in the next few years and we are currently working on acquiring a new Aurora spectral flow cytometry for the HICCC, which will more than double the capability of the instrument to be replaced.