Flow cytometry is routinely used in the diagnosis of health disorders such as leukemia and lymphoma. Common specimen types include lymph nodes, peripheral blood, and bone marrow. It is a laser-based, biophysical technology employed in the cell counting, cell sorting, biomarker detection and protein engineering , by suspending cells in a stream of fluid and passing them by an electronic detection apparatus. It allows simultaneous multiparametric analysis of the physical and chemical characteristics of up to thousands of particles per second.
Modern flow cytometers are able to analyze several thousand particles every second, in "real time," and can actively separate and isolate particles having specified properties. A flow cytometer is similar to a microscope, except that, instead of producing an image of the cell, flow cytometry offers "high-throughput" (for a large number of cells) automated quantification of set parameters.
The process of collection data from samples using the flow cytometer is termed "acquisition". Acquisition is mediated by a computer physically connected to the flow cytometer, and the software which handles the digital interface with the cytometer. The software is capable of adjusting parameters (i.e. voltage, compensation, etc.) for the sample being tested, and also assists in displaying initial sample information while acquiring sample data to ensure that parameters are set correctly.
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