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What do Flow Cytometry Users Have to Say?

Learn some of the common problems users experience from our latest flow cytometer survey results.

by Jason Kerkhof

Flow cytometry is a powerful technology that allows researchers and clinicians to perform complex cellular analysis quickly and efficiently by analyzing several parameters simultaneously. Just a few years ago, working with a flow cytometry instrument was generally done by teams of highly trained experts at core facilities, working on massive machines costing more than $100,000. Today’s instruments can be built for benchtop use and are getting ever cheaper. Much of the machine setup is now automated, which will likely continue to democratize the method. Benchtop, micro-capillary flow cytometers, paired with ready-to-use cell analysis kits, enable any researcher to leverage the power of flow cytometry, regardless of expertise or access to a core facility.

Top 5 Questions You Should Ask When Buying a Flow Cytometer

  1. What type of cells do you want to study? Running simple assays involving cell viability or counting often do not require highly sophisticated machines.
  2. How many lasers, filters, and detectors do you need? The more lasers and detectors an instrument has, the greater the number of simultaneous colors can be detected.
  3. Where will you be in three to five years? How many samples will you be running and what parameters will you be looking at? If your instrument doesn’t support your future needs, you may better serve your lab by purchasing a higher-end instrument.
  4. How difficult is it to set up and operate? Users should be able to operate a simple teo-laser system within a couple of hours, while a more complex system may require considerable training.
  5. What are the ongoing costs? Beyond the instrument cost, you’ll also be paying for assay reagent kits, filters, and other consumables. Understand the total cost of ownership including repair and maintenance costs before purchasing.

Research applications of flow cytometry, according to survey respondents:

Cell proliferation33%
Stem cells32%
Cell cycle analysis29%
GFP and RFP detection20%
Microbiological applications17%
Marine sample analysis5%

Most common problems users experience when using their flow cytometer:

Low event rate40%
No signal/weak signal intensity39%
High background/high percentage of positive cells32%
Two or more cell populations observed when there should be one22%
High side scatter background16%
High signal intensity11%
High event rate9%

Number of flow cytometers used by respondents in their lab:

More than 7

For more information on flow cytometers, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit