PerspectiveHistory of Science

Flow cytometry strikes gold

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Science  13 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6262, pp. 739-740
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad6770

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Summary

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of flow cytometry. One would imagine that a technology invented so long ago would be radically different today—yet it has changed remarkably little in its fundamentals. It allows rapid and simultaneous analysis of multiple parameters of live cells in a heterogeneous mix as they flow in a stream through photonic detectors. The data are integrated to give a comprehensive view of the sample. Flow cytometry has become a staple of biological research as well as clinical diagnostics, and its application has been crucial to innumerable advances in immunology and cell biology, and for understanding diseases such as AIDS and cancer. It has spawned the development of dozens of other key technologies and its application continues to expand, ranging from single-cell to cell population analysis.