Immune monitoring technology primer: flow and mass cytometry

Maecker, H.T., Harari, A.

Flow cytometry traditionally uses fluorochrome-labeled probes, such as antibodies, to identify cells expressing the targets of those probes. A sample stream carries single cells in suspension past a laser, exciting the fluorochromes, with quantitation of the emitted fluorescent signals from each cell via optical filters and photomultiplier tubes [1]. In mass cytometry, or CyTOF, the fluorescent labels are replaced with heavy metal ions. The metal ions are chelated to a polymer, which is covalently linked to antibodies or other probes. After staining with these probes, single cells are introduced via an aerosol stream into a plasma torch, resulting in complete ionization of the labeled cells. The heavy ions are then focused via a quadrapole and enter a time-of-flight detector, where the individual ions are quantitated [2, 3]. This results in the simultaneous benefit of more available labels, with much less spillover between detector channels.


Maecker, H.T., Harari, A. "Immune monitoring technology primer: flow and mass cytometry" Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer (2015): 44