Flow cytometry has led to great advances in cytology, hematology, immunology, and microbiology, among other research fields. The qualitative and quantitative assessment of pathogens, cell response phenotype and cell death, as well as the study of metabolic functions, and cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions is made possible using flow-cytometry techniques. With a relatively low investment, it is possible to obtain detailed data using current flow-cytometry technology.

The technology available nowadays includes different devices with several configurations. Commercially available equipment can now be equipped anywhere from one laser that can determine five parameters, to five lasers that can determine up to 20 parameters simultaneously. The increasing need for polychromatic approaches to flow cytometry, coupled with rapid technological advances, has pushed the frontiers of flow cytometry beyond 12-color systems. Additionally, flow-cytometry technology is evolving to enable the acquisition of a greater number of parameters in the same sample.

Indian Market Dynamics

The Indian flow-cytometers market did not display growth in 2014, and the reagents increased their contribution, commanding a 65 percent share. The analytical flow cytometers used in clinics allow quantifying of a particular type of cell population. The cell sorters used in research laboratories not only allow quantifying but also sorting the cell population of interest.

The analyzers in 2014 received a setback from low government funding. Research almost seems to have come to a halt at Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), among others.

The situation is expected to ease from July 2015 onward, but then the market in 2015 may also not grow over the previous year, as the procurement for 2015-16 will have to be done within 9 months. Two types of analyzers, averaging at unit prices of USD 40,000 and 80,000, are available, with the premium ones commanding a 60 percent share in volume and 75 percent share in value.

The market for cell sorters has also declined while a majority of the installed cell sorters are being used as analyzers, and complete features of the system are never utilized.

Polymer-based dyes are being preferred as they are brighter than conventional dyes with equivalent background. For cells that have a few receptors on the surface, bright reagents are essential in resolving these dim cells from the others in a sample.

Point-of-care systems for HIV are gaining greater acceptance, with the introduction of near-patient CD4 monitoring systems that provide absolute and percentage results of CD4 T lymphocytes and hemoglobin concentration in whole-blood samples. This has allowed HIV/AIDS patients to have access to treatment and monitoring, reducing the probability of transmitting the infection to others and providing a plan for improved long-term care. There has also been a growing preference for multicolor analysis (with 8-13 parameters) in flow cytometry. These new flow cytometers provide efficient acquisition of excellent quality data from over 10 colors with advanced optical design for enhanced sensitivity for multicolor assays. Flow cytometers with a small footprint offer scalable configurations that allow for the future addition of more lasers and fluorescence detectors as the applications for complex multicolor flow cytometry have improved operability of the systems.

Way Forward

Although advances have been made in the separation technologies employed by flow cytometry, some of the foundational principles still remain in use, such as the use of electric fields to direct droplets containing cells of interest. The development of new technologies to increase the performance, robustness, resolution, and recovery rate in flow-cytometric devices has led to the creation and development of novel equipment. A major revolution in flow cytometry consists of new approaches, combining existing technologies with routine laboratory procedures, such as imaging. This makes possible the acquisition of images of cells in real time as they pass by the interrogation point.

Relatively recently, the mass-cytometry approach has been characterized by coupling with a fluid-flow cytometry system, which allows the separation and organization of cells in suspension with the resolution of mass spectrometry. This is not yet a widely used technology, but some researchers believe it will be possible to simultaneously assay up to 100 markers in each cell by mass cytometry.

In the near future, flow cytometry might be applied in combination with genomics and proteomics for research purposes to provide valuable information about microbial ecology in aquatic environments, especially for non-cultivable single-cell genomic and proteomic analyses in the marine environment.

Indian Market Dynamics is based on market research conducted by Medical Buyer in May 2015

 

"Flow cytometry measures multiple characteristics of individual particles flowing in a single file in a stream of fluid. Light scattering at different angles can distinguish differences in size and internal complexity, whereas light emitted from fluorescently labeled antibodies can identify a wide array of all surface and cytoplasmic antigens. This approach makes flow cytometry a powerful tool for detailed analysis of complex populations in a short period of time. The information obtained is both qualitative and quantitative. In the past, flow cytometers were found only in larger academic centers. Advances in technology now make it possible for community hospitals to use this methodology. Contemporary flow cytometers are much smaller, less expensive, more user-friendly, and well suited for high-volume operations. Flow cytometry is used for immunophenotyping of a variety of specimens, including whole blood, bone marrow, serous cavity fluids, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, and solid tissues. Its common clinical uses are in leukemia and lymphoma phenotyping, identification of prognostically important subgroups and in immunology and immunohematology."

Dr Meenakshi Sharma
Consultant Pathologist,
Manipal Hospital, Jaipur


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