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Top Cell Sorter

Written by Tim Bushnell, PhD

The question always arises as to what is the top cell sorter on the market. This question is a difficult one to generalize because there are several considerations that need to be made in choosing a cell sorter.

What are the sorting needs of the investigators?

If all the investigators do is sort GFP positive cells, then a simple sorter like the Bio-Rad S3 fits the bill. On the other hand, of the investigators need to do 4-12 color experiments with four way sorting, the choice becomes more muddled.

Who will operate the instrument?

Is the instrument going to be operated by a dedicated staff or will many individuals run their own samples on the system? If the plan is to have individuals run their own samples, then consider an instrument like the S3 or the BD FACSAria, both of which are easier to use than the more complicated Astrios or Influx.

How much space is devoted to the instrument?

Many of the cell sorters require a large commitment of space, more so if there is a biocontainment hood. Make sure to get the installation requirements from the vendors being considered to ensure the space is large enough, has sufficient cooling and adequate power.

What cells will be sorted?

This may dictate some of the additional features required. Microparticles and bacteria, for example, may require a more sensitive detector. If a lot of work is being done with the red fluorescent proteins, be sure to get a 532 or better yet a 561 nm laser.

What type of containment will be needed?

Cell sorters generate tens of thousands of droplets per second, any of which could contain a cell. These droplets are of a size that they can be inhaled and serve as a possible route of infection. It is critical that before any sorter is purchased, the biocontainment needs are evaluated. The ISAC website has a good deal of information on the best practices for bio-contaiment of cell sorters.

How much money is there?

This is the million dollar question (sometimes literally). Be sure to have a realistic budget for the instrument, containment, and any room renovations that are needed.

Overall, these questions can help guide you to what is the top cell sorter for your needs.

Tim Bushnell, PhD

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