AAT Bioquest

What are the applications of flow cytometry and FACS?

Posted May 9, 2023


Flow cytometry and FACS (fluorescence-activated cell sorting) have several critical clinical applications. 

Immunophenotyping - Immunophenotyping is the most common application of flow cytometry and FACS. This technique allows researchers to identify and quantify multiple populations of cells in a heterogeneous sample such as bone marrow, peripheral blood and lymph material. Immunophenotyping is widely used in hematological labs to diagnose hematological malignancies such as lymphomas and leukemia. 

Cell Sorting - Researchers use flow cytometry and FACS to select specific cells of interest from a mixed population and physically isolate them into separate collection tubes. This technique is widely used to isolate stem cells, tumor cells, transfected cells, and lymphocyte subpopulations for further analysis. This application is useful for noninvasive patient monitoring, clinical studies, personalization medicine, and non-clinical research.

Cell Cycle Analysis - Flow cytometry and FACS can be used to determine proliferation, viability and cell death mechanisms as well as the cell cycle phase. Researchers use these cell-based assays to identify cell anomalies with the help of certain fluorescent dyes. Cell cycle analysis provides crucial information in many different research areas. 

Cell Proliferation Assays - In cell biology, cell proliferation assays are used as a tool for measuring cellular metabolic activity in response to specific stimuli such as cytokines, growth factors, and assorted media components. On being activated, the cells begin to proliferate and undergo mitosis. As the cells divide, each of the daughter cells inherits half of the original dye. Researchers are able to calculate cellular activation and proliferation by measuring the reduction of the fluorescence signal. 

Serological Testing - Flow cytometry and FACS is more sensitive than traditional immunoassays in serological testing. They can measure multiple antibodies at the same time and allow for higher throughput. 

Intracellular Calcium Flux - Researchers use flow cytometry and FACS to detect and measure the flux of calcium into the cell. 

Apoptosis - Flow cytometry and FACS is also used to determine the mechanisms of cell death. Identifying the morphological, molecular, and biochemical changes occurring in dying cells allows researchers to differentiate between necrosis and early apoptosis. 

Drug Development - Flow cytometry and FACS are widely used as an invaluable tool in drug development research. 

Additional resources

Fluorescence-activated Cell Sorting for Purification of Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells from the Mouse Bone Marrow

Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting (FACS)

Flow Cytometry Reagents

ReadiUse™ CFSE [5-(and 6)-Carboxyfluorescein diacetate, succinimidyl ester] *CAS 150347-59-4*