Researchers are using light and new image processing tools for label-free cell characterization.

Period1 Dec 2017

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleOptical Cell Sorting
    Degree of recognitionInternational
    Media name/outletThe Scientist
    Media typeWeb
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    DescriptionResearchers are using light and new image processing tools for label-free cell characterization.

    The more biologists learn about disease complexity and the power of personalized treatments, the more important it becomes to develop noninvasive and unbiased methods of sorting, separating, and otherwise gathering information about individual cells.

    Traditionally, however, sorting cells has been tricky. Methods for accurately and quickly sorting heterogeneous cell populations—even into just the broad categories of malignant or benign—often rely on the use of fluorescent surface labels or biochemical stains, techniques that frequently alter the cells’ properties. And in some applications, researchers simply don’t know which surface markers to track. This means that the cells being studied may not be representative of the specific cell subpopulation of interest.

    A new wave of label-free methods is offering researchers ways to identify subgroups of cells in live cultures and to home in on the most pertinent populations. Still, many label-free methods rely on only one cell characteristic or are hobbled by their low throughput. To overcome these limitations, researchers are devising tools that rapidly pump high volumes of cells through tiny microfluidic channels etched into a chip and combine the novel use of optics with new image-processing tools.

    The Scientist explores how these label-free techniques are helping to rapidly and accurately identify and isolate subsets of cells from a larger population.
    Producer/AuthorRachel Berkowitz
    PersonsLynn Paterson