Cell Sorting is the process of isolating cells after the identification of the cells using the principles of flow cytometry. The upstream components of the cell sorter are common to all flow cytometers. The difference comes in what is done with the cells after they have been interrogated and identified.
The stream is vibrated to generate thousands of individual droplets (as many as 90,000 or more), a fraction of which contain a cell. Those droplets that contain a cell of interest can beelectrically charged, as as the pass into an electric field, are deflected to the final receptacle, as shown below:
The two most common types of cell sorters are the Jet-in-Air cell sorters and the Cuvette sorters. The primary difference is where the cells are interrogated. In the Jet-in-Air sorter, the cells are interrogated as the stream exits the nozzle. Cuvette based systems interrogate the cells inside a cuvette before the stream exits and droplets are formed.
Using cell sorting it is possible to isolate, to purity, cells from complex populations allowing for detailed characterization and secondary assays to be performed.