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Ultra-fast imaging of single cells

Stroboscopic illumination and microfluidics allow for blur-free imaging of single cells at unprecedented speed

Imaging flow cytometry is becoming increasingly popular for the detection and analysis of heterogeneous cell populations. Unlike traditional flow cytometers, imaging flow cytometers are able to acquire the spatially resolved information and thus detect events occurring within the cell, such as chromosomal signaling and antigen localization. However, due to motion blur, imaging flow cytometers are normally unable to provide high spatial resolution imaging analysis whilst operating a high throughput.

To address this limitation, a sheathless, microfluidic imaging flow cytometer has recently been developed by Gregor Holzner and colleagues in the deMello group. This platform generates high-resolution and blur-free images of cells moving at high velocity, by using a viscoelastic carrier fluid and stroboscopic laser light sheet illumination. The team use the cytometer to perform ultra-high throughput localization of sub-micron structures in both yeast and human cells. Amazingly, this enables sub-cellular multi-color analysis at a rate of over 60,000 cells per second and with a spatial resolution down to 500 nm.

Due to this innovation, motion blur need not be a barrier for ultra-high throughput analysis in imaging flow cytometry. Moreover, as camaras and computational tools become faster and cheaper, such a platform could be used for “real time” analysis of cellular samples in a wide variety of diagnostic applications.

Written by Chao Song

Read the full paper here

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