The FACS on Molecular Biology's new laser

Monday, March 30, 2015

Terence TangLast week, the Molecular Biology core facility lab unveiled its newest analytical service: the BD FACSAria™ Fusion fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS).

This specialized form of multicolor flow cytometry allows researchers count, sort and analyze individual cells using fluorochromes, a fluorescent biomarker that can re-emit light when excited by another light source like a laser.

There are so many researchers across campus working with biological materials and cells,” says Canada Research Chair and Professor Brian Dixon, one of instrument’s co-purchasers. “We see a huge benefit to research in everything from immunology to nanotechnology and drug delivery.”

FACS laserBD FACSAria™ isolates cells by separating the sample stream into droplets that can only hold one individual cell. A laser hits the sample droplet and determines if the fluorochrome within the cell is present. By marking with a particular fluorochrome whatever molecule – antibody, virus, protein, nanotech device – that can enter the cell, the cell sorter can tell exactly what percentage of cells contain that molecule.

With its three lasers tuned to 355 nm (UV), 488 nm (blue), and  640 nm (red), the BD FACSAria™ can differentiate up to nine different color combinations simultaneously. This is an improvement over the previous instrument, which could only detect four colors.

It’s a balancing act between colors, excitation, and biomarkers,” says Dr. Terence Tang, the Molecular Biology core facility lab manager. “My training from BD on this instrument allows me to help researchers maximize what they can do.”

In addition to detecting biomarkers, the BD FACSAria™ can isolate a pure cell population based on a positive or negative sorting result. For example, if a user is interested in working further with lymphocytes, these cells can be differentiated from the rest of a whole blood cell population using the CD45 marker.

The Molecular Biology core facility also offers genome sequencing analysis right in the same room. The MiSeq can analyse an entire bacteria genome in two days and the human genome in three days.

The MiSeq sequencer really rounds out our service portfolio,” says Tang.

Both the FACS and genome sequencing services are available for hire by the entire research community. To schedule an analysis or contact Dr. Tang for a consultation, please visit the FACS facility and Molecular Biology core facility service pages.

The BD FACSAria™ Fusion is managed through the FACS Users Committee, which includes Prof. Brian Dixon (Biology), Prof. Maud Gorbet (Systems Design Engineering), and Prof. Brian Ingalls (Applied Mathematics).