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A New Era of Flow Cytometry Arrives at the FACS Core Facility

Photo of a group of researchers using the new FACS instrument.
Anna Fossum, head of the FACS Core Facility research infrastructure, along with researchers Nicholas Leigh, Chimezie Umeano, and Marlene Johanna Oesterle, collect and analyze data on the new BD FACSDiscover. Photo: Alexis Luis.

At Lund University’s Biomedical Centre, the FACS Core Facility hums with activity, hosting a range of machines ready to support scientific research. Now, the facility welcomes its latest addition: a high-tech spectral flow cytometry instrument coupled with image-based sorting capacity. Scientists from various disciplines are lining up to use this new tool, which promises to make cell research faster and more precise.

Flow cytometry uses laser lights to excite fluorescent markers on cells. Now, this new technology allows for rapid, simultaneous analysis of many more cell surface markers at the single-cell level than previous instruments

Portrait of Nicholas Leigh. Photo.
Nicholas Leigh

Nicholas Leigh, Associate Professor at Lund University, and a research group leader at Lund Stem Cell Center, playfully compares the new instrument, known as the BD FACS Discover, to a blend of existing technologies: “Imagine a FACS machine and a microscope had a baby. That's what we have here.”

Offering unmatched speed and visualization features, this advanced tool not only lights up cells marked with fluorescent dyes using laser beams but also captures detailed images of each cell. 

"The real breakthrough here is the ability to sort cells with incredible precision based on these detailed images, enabling researchers to isolate cells with specific traits for deeper study," explains Nicholas Leigh. The spectral flow cytometer can also analyze up to 50 proteins on a cell, making it easier to distinguish between healthy and diseased cells and to identify small, specific cell populations—like stem cells.

"You can imagine the amount of information you can get from one particular cell," he states, highlighting the potential to explore stem cells and their subpopulations in detail without compromising the viability of the cells. Something that is important for later research applications.

Expanding Research Horizons

For years, flow cytometry has been essential in the study of a wide array of health conditions, from blood disorders to neurodegenerative diseases. But now the spectral flow cytometer's versatility is attracting interest from a wide range of scientific disciplines. Engineers in microfluidics are keen on using it to isolate specific types of circulating cancer cells, while biologists look forward to examining microorganisms in water samples with greater accuracy.

As for Nicholas Leigh and his research team, they intend to use the instrument to study salamanders. Given their reputation as cancer-resistant creatures, they aim to explore the reasons behind this phenomenon and its potential connection to their regenerative abilities.

Chimezie Umeano and Marlene Johanna Oesterle, PhD students in the Leigh Lab, analyze data on the BD FACSDiscover S8 Cell Sorter.
Chimezie Umeano and Marlene Johanna Oesterle, doctoral students in the Leigh Lab, analyze data together on the latest addition to the FACS facility.

"Our goal is to develop a method for identifying and sorting cell types across species, to explore potential cancer cells in salamanders, investigate what distinguishes cancerous from non-cancerous cells, and how salamanders might control this process. It opens up new possibilities for cell manipulation that were just previously not possible,” he explains.

Open Access Leads to More Discoveries

Highlighting the importance of accessibility, Nicholas stresses that the central location of the spectral flow cytometer within the FACS Core Facility is key to fostering innovation. 

"Making this technology available to all researchers is vital for sparking new discoveries. Its centralization ensures that anyone at the university, and even external researchers, can benefit from its capabilities," he notes.

Photo of Anna Fossum.
Anna Fossum.

“Having the BD FACSDiscover S8 Cell Sorter in our facility gives us a true boost towards more exciting research," adds Anna Fossum, Director of the Lund Stem Cell Center FACS Core Facility. "We hope many researchers will find applications and research projects that can benefit from the combination of spectral flow cytometry with real-time spatial and morphological insights, both for sorting and analysis of different cell populations.” 

About the FACS Core Facility:

The Lund Stem Cell Center FACS Core Facility is a state-of-the-art multi-colour flow cytometry facility which serves all researchers at Lund University, other academic institutions, and industrial organizations.

Learn more about the FACS Core Facility

More about the BD FACSDiscover:

Name: The BD FACSDiscover™ S8 Cell Sorter

Features: Equipped with sort-capable image analysis. Merges spectral flow cytometry with real-time spatial and morphological insights for a high-dimensional analysis.


Funding for the BD FACSDiscover S8 Cell Sorter was generously provided by Lund University, as well as the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University, Lund Stem Cell Center, and the IngaBritt och Arne Lundbergs Forskningsstiftelse.