What is Mass Cytometry?

Mass Cytometry is a next-generation flow cytometry technology that enables high parameter phenotypic and functional profiling of single cells within heterogeneous populations. Mass cytometers analyze cells labelled with antibodies conjugated to metals, rather than fluorochromes, in a mass spectroscopy-coupled flow cytometer, also known as a CyTOF. It is widely used for high dimensional studies in immunology, cancer research, stem cell biology and drug response profiling.

How does a mass cytometer work?

Mass cytometers analyze cells labelled with antibodies conjugated to metals, rather than fluorochromes, in a mass spectroscopy-coupled flow cytometer, also known as a CyTOF. Metal-labelled single cell suspensions are introduced into an inductively-coupled plasma torch to generate an ion cloud that is then analyzed by time-of-flight mass spectroscopy, allowing the composition and abundance of cell-associated metal atoms to be ascertained.

Why use mass cytometry over fluorescence flow cytometry?

Because there is no autofluorescence and limited spillover between metal tags, mass cytometry overcomes limitations of fluorescence-based flow cytometry to allow “deep” single cell profiling of up to 45 markers per sample. The ability to combine many more markers into a single panel allows a more efficient and unbiased approach for discovery of novel disease-associated cell populations or functional states, especially in samples where cell numbers are limiting. Because mass cytometry can provide a “systems-level” view of single cells in heterogeneous mixtures, mass cytometry has emerged as the leading technology for high-content single-cell analysis in health and disease.

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