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Methods Mol Biol. 2017;1571:267-286. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-6848-0_17.

Streak Imaging Flow Cytometer for Rare Cell Analysis.

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Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA, Silver Spring, MD, 20993, USA.
University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 20742, USA.
National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD, 20850, USA.
National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD, 20850, USA.


There is a need for simple and affordable techniques for cytology for clinical applications, especially for point-of-care (POC) medical diagnostics in resource-poor settings. However, this often requires adapting expensive and complex laboratory-based techniques that often require significant power and are too massive to transport easily. One such technique is flow cytometry, which has great potential for modification due to the simplicity of the principle of optical tracking of cells. However, it is limited in that regard due to the flow focusing technique used to isolate cells for optical detection. This technique inherently reduces the flow rate and is therefore unsuitable for rapid detection of rare cells which require large volume for analysis.To address these limitations, we developed a low-cost, mobile flow cytometer based on streak imaging. In our new configuration we utilize a simple webcam for optical detection over a large area associated with a wide-field flow cell. The new flow cell is capable of larger volume and higher throughput fluorescence detection of rare cells than the flow cells with hydrodynamic focusing used in conventional flow cytometry. The webcam is an inexpensive, commercially available system, and for fluorescence analysis we use a 1 W 450 nm blue laser to excite Syto-9 stained cells with emission at 535 nm. We were able to detect low concentrations of stained cells at high flow rates of 10 mL/min, which is suitable for rapidly analyzing larger specimen volumes to detect rare cells at appropriate concentration levels. The new rapid detection capabilities, combined with the simplicity and low cost of this device, suggest a potential for clinical POC flow cytometry in resource-poor settings associated with global health.


Flow cytometry; Fluidics; Fluorescence detection; POC; Rare cells; Webcam

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