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Top Flow Cytometry Instrument, Reagent, And Software Trends To Pay Attention To In 2016

Written by Tim Bushnell, PhD

From instruments, to reagents, to software there are many flow cytometry innovations to pay attention to this year.

These are just a few highlights of the great things coming your way in 2016…

I. Instruments

The mid-range cytometry market is becoming crowded with a host of new instruments on the market.

Of those, we’ve had the chance to try the Novocyte, which is a very easy to use instrument built with the Accuri mindset—fixed voltage PMTs. This, coupled with easy to use software, makes it a breeze to get a researcher up and running.

We noticed some issues in the far red channel of the Novocyte, but we’ve been told this is being resolved.

I’m looking forward to testing out the redesigned Attune NxT instrument from ThermoFisher (previously Invitrogen). The acoustical focusing on this instrument makes it very intriguing for rare event analysis, as you can run faster with less spread of the data.

Moving to the higher end platforms—multidimensional data is very exciting to us. The new Helios (CyTOF III) system, from what we’ve read, is solid.

It looks like Fluidigm has been able to take what was learned from CyTOF I and CyTOF II to improve the system all around, including instrument stability, cell recovery, operator ease-of-use and more.

Of course, the trade-in price tag is a bit of a shock for those with the earlier generation instruments. We hope Fluidigm doesn’t stop supporting the earlier instruments, and we will miss the all-orange shell of the earlier CyTOF’s as well.

The Yeti is to be considered for those who want more detectors. The Yeti has 28 fluorescent detectors but maintains a small footprint.

Then there is also the BD X20 instrument, which allows for up to 20 fluorescent parameters, and (if you have the money)—there is the X50 instrument.

Finally, there is also the Sony SP6800. This spectral analyzer changes the way researchers examine the data, using spectral unmixing that allows for very closely related dyes to be distinguished.

II. Reagents

Thermo-Fisher recently acquired Affymetrix, bringing eBioscience into their family. We look forward to seeing how this acquisition affects the flow cytometry reagent market.

In terms of reagent trends, dyes are still very popular. More and more fluorescent tags are making choices for panel design easier. The range of “Brilliant” dyes continues to expand and offer new, brighter choices for the end-user.

Now, with Brilliant UV dyes, the UV laser can be used for more than just side populations and calcium flux experiments.

BioLegend has been expanding their product lineup. There is also a lot of excitement with the LEGENDPlex assay kits. Since these kits can be run on any instrument, they can be readily integrated into current workflows.

We enjoy using magnetic beads for depletion experiments before cell sorting, and we are happy to see BioLegend go-to-market with their new MojoSort product. We’ve found that BioLegend really has a good marketing team, especially when it comes to naming their new products (example, MitoSpy).

Another reagent trend to keep your eyes on this year includes the release of validated antibodies for MaxPar labeling for use on the CyTOF. If you are using a CyTOF, knowing which reagents have been validated will save you a lot of time and resources. 

III. Software

We enjoy watching and benefiting from the continued development of tools to assist in polychromatic panel design, including Chromocyte, Fluorish, and Flourofinder.

Each of these tools follow a similar path for designing the panel, and share some common features including:

  •       Allowing you to design for your instrument
  •       Searching vendor databases for reagents that fit your needs
  •       Saving and exporting the panel to share

The first two bullet points above are the most important. After all, what good is building the best panel if you can’t run it on your instrument? With the above tools, you can build a solid antibody panel in minutes. Of course, you still have to apply your knowledge of polychromatic panel design and your instrument to build the right panel, but the hard part of searching is now easy.

In particular, Chromocyte provides a wealth of information beyond just providing researchers with a panel design tool. The website covers everything from meetings and training courses, to integrated search engines for various flow related products, to an online forum for finding more information and getting help.

When it comes to analytical software, there is a lot of continued development with the various data analysis software packages. FlowJo continues their parallel development of VX and Version 9. We are still fans of Version 9, especially with the added ability to compute the spillover spreading matrix of a flow cytometry experiment. The FlowJo SSM is another tool that can be used to evaluate and monitor the performance of polychromatic panels and instruments.

There are some interesting PC-only software packages as well. We’ve always liked the intuitive feel of FCS Express, and the add-ons that the FCS Express team offers, such as the ability to directly import experiments from DIVA. FCS Express has come a long way over the years, especially in terms of the development of their Image Analysis package. We’ve also heard positive reports of the Kaluza data analysis software package, which is also highly intuitive.

The team at Inivai continues to provide novel solutions with their Logic platform. From their lead analysis package FlowLogic, they have developed a series of other tools that make flow cytometry analysis, as well as graphing and annotating metadata and other information seamless.

What do you think of our list?

Feel free to tell us about your favorite (or least favorite) flow cytometry products on our popular product review page here.

To learn more about getting your flow cytometry data published and to get access to all of our advanced materials including 20 training videos, presentations, workbooks, and private group membership, get on the Flow Cytometry Mastery Class wait list.

Tim Bushnell, PhD


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