Cell Analysis
Jul 18, 2023
| 4 min read

Infectious Disease Research: Forging Ahead with Advanced Flow Cytometry

COVID-19 might be in the rear-view mirror, but infectious diseases continue to pose a significant threat to global health. How do we better position ourselves to respond to the next pandemic? The answer is in ongoing research to better understand virus biology and develop effective treatments. In this post we’ll talk about the vital role of advanced flow cytometry in helping researchers to analyze and characterize various aspects of infectious agents, host immune responses, and therapeutic interventions.

This article is posted on our Science Snippets Blog  


Understanding the basics of flow cytometry

Flow cytometry is a powerful analytical technique that’s used to identify, quantify, and analyze cells and particles in a heterogeneous mixture. The standard instrument consists of three main components: a fluidics system, an optical system, and an electronic system. The fluidics system directs the sample stream into a narrow, single-cell suspension. As the cells pass through laser beams in single file, the optical system measures specific properties like size, granularity, and fluorescence. Sophisticated software is then used to analyze all the data.

This ability to collect information on multiple attributes from each cell rather fast, has made flow cytometry a common technique in many applications, including therapeutic antibody discovery and infectious disease research.

Applications in infectious disease research

To develop new vaccines and treatments for a novel pathogen, first we need to learn about the biology of the pathogen and how it engages with host immune systems. The action of T cells is central to orchestrating the body’s defenses during an infection. T-cell characterization provides insights into how T cells recognize and eliminate infected cells, control pathogen spread, and regulate the overall immune response. Flow cytometry is an indispensable tool for answering these questions, and for evaluating vaccines and therapeutic strategies.

  • Immune profiling: By staining immune cells with fluorescently-labeled antibodies, researchers can characterize different cell subsets, like T cells, B cells, and natural killer cells (NK cells). This type of information provides valuable insights into the dynamics of the immune response, including changes in cell populations, activation markers, and cytokine production.
  • Treatment development: flow cytometry provides quantitative and qualitative data on viral replication, host immune responses, and cellular effects, allowing researchers to assess the efficacy, safety, and mechanism of action of antiviral drugs. For example, fluorescently-labeled antibodies targeting viral antigens can be used to detect if the virus can attach and enter the host cell in response to treatment. This information is crucial for optimizing drug regimens, doing drug resistance analysis, and developing more effective antivirals.

Quantitative ADCP assay on the iQue® Platform

What advanced flow cytometry can do

Although flow cytometry is an important tool in infectious disease research, the technique is widely regarded as being difficult. Part of this is due to the non-intuitive workflows of traditional systems and the disjointed data analysis protocols that require multiple software and a lot of time. There are also limits to throughput, which make it difficult to perform assays at industry scale. For these reasons, many labs find it easier to outsource these experiments to core facilities.

Advanced systems, like the iQue® Advanced Flow Cytometry Platform address critical bottlenecks to enable fast, high-throughput protein analysis, immunophenotyping, and functional assessments and profiling. A key superpower of advanced systems is the simultaneous detection of multiple parameters in a single sample. On the iQue® Platform, for example, you can leverage bead-based assays to measure various immune cell subsets, cytokines and other immune markers involved in infectious diseases.

 An advanced flow cytometry workflow on the iQue® Platform

Published examples in vaccine development and more

The ability to perform high-content assays in a more streamlined and cost-effective way is why so many go the “advanced” route for flow cytometry. You can find countless examples of advanced, high-throughput flow cytometry platforms being used in the development of vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases. A great resource is this review that summarizes recent publications featuring the iQue® Platform

Unsurprisingly, many of the studies are on SARS-CoV-2, with one notable mention of a vaccine candidate that received emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Other featured studies touch on Ebola virus, Zika virus, and HIV.

Check out our resources below to learn more about the iQue® Platform and how it can speed up time to results with more speed, throughput, and powerful software.

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Publications Review: Advanced Flow Cytometry Applications in Infectiou...

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On Demand Webinar: Evolution of Flow Cytometry in Infectious Disease R...

This panel discussion focuses on the use of advanced flow cytometry, within four pathogenesis aspects, of the human body response to infectious diseas...

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