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Cluster cytometry for high-capacity bioanalysis

Edwards, BS;Zhu, J;Chen, J;Carter, MB;Thal, DM;Tesmer, JJ;Graves, SW;Sklar, LA;

Flow cytometry specializes in high-content measurements of cells and particles in suspension. Having long excelled in analytical throughput of single cells and particles, only recently with the advent of HyperCyt sampling technology, flow cytometry’s multiexperiment throughput has begun to approach the point of practicality for efficiently analyzing hundreds-of-thousands of samples, the realm of high-throughput screening (HTS). To extend performance and automation compatibility, we built a HyperCyt-linked Cluster Cytometer platform, a network of flow cytometers for analyzing samples displayed in high-density, 1,536-well plate format. To assess the performance, we used cell- and microsphere-based HTS assays that had been well characterized in the previous studies. Experiments addressed important technical issues: challenges of small wells (assay volumes 10 L or less, reagent mixing, cell and particle suspension), detecting and correcting for differences in performance of individual flow cytometers, and the ability to reanalyze a plate in the event of problems encountered during the primary analysis. Boosting sample throughput an additional fourfold, this platform is uniquely positioned to synergize with expanding suspension array and cell barcoding technologies in which as many as 100 experiments are performed in a single well or sample. As high-performance flow cytometers shrink in cost and size, cluster cytometry promises to become a practical, productive approach for HTS, and other large-scale investigations of biological complexity.