Flow cytometry is a measure to analyse multiple characteristics of cells or particles based on their optical and fluorescence properties. In a typical flow cytometry setup particles in a fluid stream pass a light source, typically a laser. Behind the fluidics is the detection path for the fluorescence signal.
The basic principle of flow cytometry is the interaction of light andmatter. Light scattering and reflection are directly related to the structure and morphology of a sample, which could be a cell, microorganisms, nuclei, chromosomes etc. Light emission from the sample, however, is often the result of fluorophores or dyes bound to specific sample components. Flow cytometry can be used in two different options, non-sorting and sorting. In case of non-sorting flow cytometry analysis of the sample properties is conducted. In sorting flow cytometry the particles can additionally be sorted regarding a specific property. Flow cytometry is nowadays routinely used in basic research and medical applications for cell counting, sorting, detection of biomarkers and microorganisms and in the diagnosis of health disorders. The development of microfluidic flow cytometers further allows high-throughput screening of samples which is especially useful for low-concentration particles or cellular differences, e.g. in drug responses.
For efficient flow cytometry the choice of fluorophores is essential and even more the excitation and detection of the corresponding fluorescence signal. The correct light source allows the excitation of multiple wavelength ranges or several different excitation sources can be used in parallel (mulit wavelength laser combiner). A careful selection of optical filters and mirrors allows the detection of multiple emission colours from the particles.
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