Is it Time to Upgrade Your Flow Cytometer?
Old instruments can become like old friends, over the course of your research you get to know all their quirks and together you get great results. However, even the most reliable of instruments can have off days that lead you to question your future together. You may feel that you have outgrown your flow cytometer as your experimental needs become more complex and you need an instrument that can keep up with your demands. Perhaps, the service engineer is regularly coming out and you are starting to question how much more you can invest in this piece of equipment. In this blog, we outline some of the considerations for whether it is time to upgrade your flow cytometer.
Can You Still Depend on Them?
Reproducible data depends on having an instrument that performs reliably. While you should maintain your instrument by always following the manufacturer’s guidelines, including services, over time parts will become worn and need replacing. Complex instruments, like flow cytometers, have many components and as the equipment ages these components may break down. If this starts to happen fairly frequently it can result in long periods of downtime and significant delays to your experiments. While it is a good idea to have a service contract to ensure that your flow cytometer is routinely serviced and engineer call-out charges are minimized, there may be a point when your instrument is no longer supported by the manufacturer. At this point, any breakdowns can mean that your instrument is permanently out of action.
To decide whether you should upgrade your existing instrument, it is worth balancing the cost of repairs against the cost of a newer, more reliable instrument.
No Longer a Connection?
One of the key reasons why labs may need to consider upgrading equipment is due to an outdated operating system that can’t be updated. Not only can this cause issues with software compatibility, this can result in IT security risks, as well as limit the instrument’s functionality. Modern cytometers have features that enable maximum integration into your lab including faster data transfer and remote servicing. If your instrument is running on outdated software, it may be time to purchase a new one.
Are Your Needs Still Being Met?
When you purchased your flow cytometer, you will have bought an instrument based on your needs then, but it is possible these have evolved with time. You may have previously only needed three lasers for your assays but perhaps you are now routinely doing more complex immunophenotyping and require a five-laser model to give you greater flexibility when building panels. Can your instrument handle both tubes and plates and easily switch between them?
If your needs have changed it may be time to either replace your existing instrument or purchase one with greater functionality.
Considerations like the number of parameters, but also the speed the instrument runs at and whether or not you require an instrument with features such as automated sample cooling and shaking, may also mean that it is worth investing in an upgrade.
As flow cytometry equipment technology advances, the capability of instruments improves. Not just in terms of number of parameters but also features like automated sample cooling and shaking can significantly enhance productivity allowing researchers to perform other tasks while the instrument is running. Features like automated fluidics monitoring and dry sample bubble detection can reduce the probability of down time.
Spending hours loading tube after tube onto an instrument is not a productive way to spend your time. The difference between older tube-based systems compared to instruments capable of handling plates is striking. But even with instruments capable of handling plates the difference in speed can be significant. Instruments that combine fast plate handling and very high event rates have a particular advantage, allowing complex assays requiring tens of thousands of cells to be performed in just a few seconds per well. When you have an instrument that can deliver the same volume of data in a fraction of the time you will find that you have more time for other activities, or that you can deliver a step change in the amount of data you can produce.
Redefine your Relationship and Expand your Circle
The resolution of your data is largely dependent on how the signal from the detectors is converted into a digital output. Modern instruments have higher resolution leading to better-quality data. Other features including automated sample carryover reduction are also available in some modern instruments and can help improve data accuracy. If you are expecting a high volume of samples the adoption of automation can be a game changer. Older instruments were never intended to be automation compatible, as the golden rule of flow cytometry was once to never leave the cytometer when it was running! Today automation of flow cytometry is becoming more popular, especially for applications like high throughput screening. And instruments are being incorporated into complex robotic workcells allowing huge improvements in throughput and reproducibility.
As a flow cytometer is a significant investment, if you are considering upgrading your current equipment you should ensure that the instrument you choose not only meets your current needs but also gives you flexibility for future plans, for example, automation and integration with robotics platforms.
The ZE5 Cell Analyzer can handle complex assays with 5 lasers and 30 parameters, while at the same time running at speeds previously only available with much more limited screening instruments. It provides superb data quality with high-resolution electronics as well as smart features like automated probe wash, automated sample shaking, and temperature control.
Considering Upgrading Your Flow Cytometer?
Meet the ZE5 Cell Analyzer, a high performance, automation-ready flow cytometer with the ideal combination of high-throughput screening and high parameter cell analysis capabilities.Find Out More