- flow cytometry
Slightly imprecise but common term for the use of the Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorter (FACS). Cells are labelled with fluorescent dye and then passed, in suspending medium, through a narrow dropping nozzle so that each cell is in a small droplet. A laser-based detector system is used to excite fluorescence, and droplets with positively fluorescent cells are given an electric charge. Charged and uncharged droplets are separated as they fall between charged plates, and so collect in different tubes. The machine can be used either as an analytical tool, counting the number of labelled cells in a population, or to separate the cells for subsequent growth of the selected population. Further sophistication can be built into the system by using a second laser system at right angles to the first to look at a second fluorescent label, or to gauge cell size on the basis of light-scatter. The great strength of the system is that it looks at large numbers of individual cells, and makes possible the separation of populations with, for example, particular surface properties.
Dictionary of molecular biology. 2004.