Overview and technology
Cell research is at the forefront of biological study and synthetic biology for the production of many cell-derived products. As cell populations are extremely diverse, it is important to have the ability to physically separate a subset of cells of interest from the rest, this is what cell sorting does. The technology, FACS (fluorescence activated cell sorting) uses laminar flow to create a stream of single cells in single file within a stream of PBS. Each cell is identified using emitted fluorescence from molecular markers and sorted by using an electrical charge. Up to 4 subsets of cells may be either sorted to a separate collection tube, to a 96/384 plate well, the rest of the cells continuing to flow to a waste tank. Thus, pure populations are collected out of a mixture of cells for downstream processing – i.e., cultivation or analysis, such as single-cell DNA/RNA analysis.
Cell sorting may be used for genetic / epi-genetic studies where DNA or RNA is sequenced to decipher molecular processes, for growing specific cell population of interest for different processes such as gene editing, for separating microorganisms, viruses (in a biological hood) and for sorting algae.
FACS is the only method for sorting sub-populations that utilize multiple markers to distinguish the cells of interest from other cells. FACS is also fast, enabling the sorting of millions of cells in a short time.