AAT Bioquest

Why are dead cells problematic in flow cytometry?

Posted January 26, 2023


In flow cytometry, dead cells are problematic because they result in lower accuracy of results. Because dead cells naturally bind nonspecifically to antibodies, they typically give false positive results and reduce the dynamic range. They can also make it difficult to identify weakly positive samples and rare populations. Dead cells also have greater autofluorescence, which also causes a reduction to the dynamic range and also gives false positive results. Therefore, it is important to identify and remove any data points that symbolize dead cells to get as accurate results as possible. Dead cells may also release DNA and cause cell clumping, which makes it inconvenient to use in flow cytometry.

Additional resources

Simultaneous flow cytometric measurement of viability and lymphocyte subset proliferation

Spectral Flow Cytometry

Live or Dead™ Fixable Dead Cell Staining Kit *NIR Fluorescence*