Flow Cytometry

Take a virtual tour of the Flow Cytometry Core Facility and learn how we use this technology to measure tiny things like bacteria, plant pollen, and cancer cells. Then make the concepts of flow cytometry into game by pretending that small colorful objects you find around your home are “cells”! Counts toward Micro Hero badge.

What is flow cytometry?

Flow cytometry is a laser-based technology that characterizes cells based on different cell features.  These features include size, complexity (how much “stuff” is inside the cell, and how smooth or rough the cell surface is), and most often fluorescence – light that emits a RAINBOW of colors – that can be used to separate one cell type from another.  For example, a flow cytometer can tell the difference between a green fluorescent cell and a red fluorescent cell, and shows these two cells as two separate dots on a fluorescent plot.  It also tells us how many of each cell type are in a sample.  This is cell analysis.  We can also take this one step further and sort these cells into different collection containers!

Cell Sorting Activity

Materials Checklist

• Rainbow Plot Sheets

• Colorful candy, pom poms, Legos or other small, colorful items

You can separate cells out on a plot, too!  Make it a game and see who can separate cells the fastest!  Use the provided “plots” (or draw your own!) and to represent cells, use a rainbow of colorful candy, fuzzy pom poms, or small colorful items from around the house – toys such as Legos work great – and separate out your “cells”.   Then count how many of each you have.  You can let us know what you used, how many different rainbow colors there were, and how many of each you had using this form.

Download Rainbow Plots

Additional Resources

Want to make your own colorful candy sorter?