Biological and medical scientists have been using flow cytometry to count cancer cells for the past 40 years. But the large instruments are expensive and can only be operated by trained personnel. By contrast the PoCyton cytometer developed by Fraunhofer researchers is cheap to produce, no bigger than a shoebox, and automated.
Existing flow cytometers are capable of measuring the quantity of tumor cells circulating in the bloodstream but they often cost up to 300,000 euros and take up a huge amount of space – equivalent to two washing machines. Moreover, each test cycle lasts several hours. All in all, such techniques are too expensive and time-consuming for everyday clinical practice. A further downside of these cytometers is that they can only be operated by trained specialists and require daily recalibration. An alternative is the PoCyton device developed by researchers at the micro-engineering branch of the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology in Mainz (IMM). As Dr. Michael Baßler, research scientist at ICT-IMM, explains: “Our flow cytometer enables such tests to be carried out around twenty times faster. Their cost is also lower by several magnitudes, which takes us into a new dimension that makes these devices much more affordable for clinical applications.” Another advantage of the new flow cytometer is the use of miniaturized components that have reduced its size to that of a shoebox. Measurements are carried out automatically, and no calibration is necessary.
Automated counting of tumor cells in blood