Flow cytometry remains an indispensable part of the healthcare sector around the globe, and keeping track of wide-ranging consumer needs is fundamental for success in this field. In particular, ensuring user-friendliness, fluorescence capabilities, specialized research and clinical applications, and detection sensitivity are the most important factors influencing end-user purchase decisions and help solution providers widen their consumer base.
Consumer preferences shaping equipment adoption are - flow cytometry instrumentation that allows complementary approaches for diverse applications and immunophenotyping, the most popular research application for flow cytometry, closely followed by cell proliferation and cancer applications. Compared to the last decade the speed and accuracy of flow cytometers has increased. Previously, only a few samples could be analyzed for a certain period of time but nowadays, many samples can be analyzed simultaneously using this technology.
Multicolor flow cytometry. Researchers are demanding instruments with multiple light sources and different wavelengths in order to excite a greater range of colors and facilitate the rapid analysis of multiple samples. The increasing use of solid-state lasers, semiconductor lasers, and mercury lamps, in addition to traditionally preferred gas lasers, as light sources has propelled fluorescence as an important criterion for consumers. Multicolor flow cytometry rapidly reveals a large amount of biological information from a single sample.
Over the past few years, the number of parameters (and consequently colors) simultaneously analyzed in typical flow cytometry experiments has increased. This is enabled by the availability of high performance instrumentation with additional laser and detector options and data computational power, along with advances in biochemistry that have led to more fluorochrome options.
Complex analysis offered by flow cytometry has allowed analysis of various cell signaling and phenotypes of stem cells. This technology has the capabilities to conjugate antibodies to biomolecules, dyes, linkers, and drugs. Flow cytometer is also capable of measuring six markers and can produce 3 million data points from a single patient. Cell-based flow cytometry is commonly being used for measurement and diagnosis in blood cancer.
Small footprint. Small-sized, robust, and high-throughput flow cytometers designed for use in a number of clinical and research applications are witnessing significant demand among researchers. Flow cytometers are increasingly becoming compact and smaller yet more powerful to address the broad range of high-end needs of end-users. Improvements in fluorescent dyes and advent of technically advanced bench-top flow cytometers that offer the same performance and quality of high-end instruments represent other key growth drivers in the market.
The utility of flow cytometry has been limited by the challenge of standardizing instruments across facilities, companies, and geographies. The use of custom-manufactured fluorescent beads allows for greater consistency of intra- and inter-platform standardized setup, and provides a satisfactory basis for quantitative instrument standardization. This new approach has enabled comparable quantitative results to be generated by multiple flow cytometers at the same or different sites. The new method of intra- and inter-laboratory standardization of flow cytometry instruments allows instruments to produce data that shows very little variation from instrument to instrument for the same assays and sample types.
Another interesting area of development has been the ability to measure RNA levels by flow cytometry. There are several companies marketing products in this space - all of which will allow the ability to measure mRNA levels in a phenotypic manner.
Flow cytometers, in which cells are analyzed as they flow through the apparatus in a fluid stream, can be equipped with sorting capability to allow separation of cells with preselected characteristics. However, when sorting is not required, an increasing proportion of the measurements now made in flow cytometers can be made in simpler, less expensive imaging systems. In future, improvements along this line should allow the benefits of cytometric technology to be applied to problems and in places for and in which it was previously unaffordable. Microbiologists, who have been among the have-nots with respect to cytometry, stand to benefit substantially from this.
Technological advancements such as the introduction ofÂ multicolor flow cytometers with multiple lasers have also fueled the uptake of flow cytometers. Factors such as increasing affordability, ease of use, and growth in reagent manufacturing have made flow cytometry instruments more accessible worldwide leading to increased adoption. Additionally, introduction of new reagents targeted at specific applications are driving growth in flow cytometry applications.