A new technology adapts the analytical capabilities of atomic mass spectrometry to address the challenges of multiparametric flow cytometry. Advancing this technology is CyTOF®, a mass cytometry system developed and produced by DVS Sciences. Emulating flow cytometry, this technology involves tagging antibodies with isotopically pure rare-earth metals rather than fluorophores.
After incubation with a panel of metal-conjugated antibodies, hundreds of cells per second are passed through an argon plasma that atomizes and ionizes the metal tags that are subsequently analyzed by a time-of-flight mass spectrometer. In a typical cell analysis experiment, the data derived in less than four minutes of raw collection provides analysis of more than 100,000 cells.
“The CyTOF system has the capability to measure more than 100 different parameters with negligible signal overlap,” notes Scott Tanner, Ph.D., CTO and co-founder. “Currently, we offer 34 distinct metal tags and continue to develop more,” adds Nicole Ellis-Ovadia, head of marketing. Researchers can label their own antibodies or choose from a catalog of over 200 pre-labeled antibodies or application-specific panel kits.
With the huge amount of data generated by mass cytometry, one key challenge is high-dimensional data analysis. According to Dr. Tanner, “Mass cytometry requires novel multivariate analytical solutions. While our data files (standard .fcs format) are compatible with all flow analytical platforms, our preferred solution is DVS Cytobank, a new platform that provides conventional flow data workflow as well as validated and emerging unsupervised protocols designed for high dimensional data.”
Applications for mass cytometry continue to grow and include basic research on cell genesis and functionality, drug discovery (including screening samples with limited availability), and translational applications such as in the clinical diagnostics arena. Dr. Tanner says, “All of these areas share a huge demand for high dimensional, single-cell analysis and will also benefit from application-specific hardware, reagents, and software solutions.”