World-first system helps researchers detect and analyse rare cells

25 November 2010

A world-first research system launched yesterday at the Centenary Institute will give medical researchers in Australia a new weapon in the fight against cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

The new BD LSR-9 Flow Cytometer has nine lasers and is the first user-operated flow cytometer with unprecedented ability to detect and analyse rare cells.

The BD LSR9 Flow Cytometer is housed at the Centenary Institute as part of the Advanced Cytometry Facility (ACF), a joint venture run by the Centenary Institute, the University of Sydney and the Bosch Institute.

Advanced Cytometry Facility Academic Director Professor Nick King said: "Currently, a researcher may have to run a sample of cells two or three times using complex labelling systems to analyse all the unique characteristics of a cell. This makes it very difficult to detect rare cell populations. It's like a detective at a crime scene gathering two or three sets of partial fingerprints then having to cobble them together to get a complete fingerprint.

"The extra lasers on the LSR-9 Flow Cytometer will give researchers a greater range of labels to analyse cells so they will only have to run one sample. By generating the complete 'fingerprint' from one sample, researchers can make more accurate and direct measurements of cell populations. This means we can use less material, which is important when using patient samples, and we can make direct links rather than inferring relationships from incomplete, partial samples."

Funding for the $1 million BD LSR9 Flow Cytometer and related systems was provided by the Australian Research Council (ARC), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and the Centenary Institute.

University of Sydney Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Jill Trewhella said: "This significant funding is a major investment in world-leading technology to support Australian researchers. Most high end flow cytometers currently have four to five lasers so the new flow cytometer with nine lasers is a major step forward that will provide local researchers with greater ability to identify the unique characteristics of rare disease-causing cells."

Centenary Institute Head of T Cell Biology Professor Barbara Fazekas de St Groth explained how the new system could significantly reduce the time and samples required for advancing key medical research projects.

Professor Fazekas de St Groth said: "The new flow cytometer will make a huge difference to our studies of the rare regulatory T cells that protect against allergic, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases. We can now obtain more information from a single analysis of circulating white blood cells than we could previously from multiple analyses requiring over 10-times more sample material. This will speed up the pace of research into this crucial cause of chronic disease in our community."

Media enquiries: Tanya Sarina, Centenary Institute, 9565 6228, 0431 029 215,