Infectious diseases still pose a considerable threat to global health. Current research helps us to better comprehend virus biology and develop effective treatments. This post discusses the vital role of advanced flow cytometry in assisting scientists to examine and specify several aspects of host immune responses, infectious agents, and therapeutic interventions.
Image Credit: Sartorius UK Ltd
Understanding the basics of flow cytometry
Flow cytometry is a strong analytical method that is utilized to determine, measure, and examine cells and particles in a heterogeneous mixture. The standard instrument comprises three primary components: an optical, fluidic, and electronic system.
The fluidics system guides the sample stream into a narrow and single-cell suspension. Since the cells pass via laser beams in a single file, the optical system quantifies granularity, size, and fluorescence properties. Furthermore, advanced software is utilized to examine all the data.
This potential to quickly gather data on several attributes from each cell has made flow cytometry a standard method in several applications, such as therapeutic antibody discovery and infectious disease research.
Applications in infectious disease research
For new vaccines and treatments for a novel pathogen to be developed, it is essential to learn the biology of the pathogen and how it engages with host immune systems. The action of T cells is vital to organizing the body's defenses during an infection.
T-cell characterization offers an understanding of how T cells recognize and remove control pathogen spread and infected cells, and control the entire immune response. Flow cytometry is an indispensable tool for answering such questions and for assessing therapeutic and vaccine strategies.
- Immune profiling: By staining immune cells along with fluorescently-labeled antibodies, scientists can define various cell subsets, such as T cells, natural killer cells (NK cells), and B cells.
This kind of data offers useful insights into the immune response dynamics, such as variations in activation markers, cell populations, and cytokine production.
- Treatment development: Flow cytometry offers quantitative and qualitative data on host immune responses, viral replication, and cellular effects, enabling scientists to evaluate the safety, efficacy, and mechanism of action of antiviral drugs.
Fluorescently-labeled antibodies targeting viral antigens could be utilized to detect if the virus could fix and enter the host cell in reaction to treatment. This information is vital for improving drug regimens, performing drug resistance analysis, and developing highly effective antivirals.
Quantitative ADCP assay on the iQue® Platform. Image Credit: Sartorius UK Ltd
What advanced flow cytometry can do
Even though flow cytometry is considered a significant tool in infectious disease research, the method has been considered complex due to the non-intuitive workflows of conventional systems and the disjointed data analysis protocols that require softwares. There are also throughput limits, which make it hard to execute assays at an industry scale. For such reasons, several laboratories find outsourcing such experiments to core facilities simpler.
Sophisticated systems, such as the iQue® Advanced Flow Cytometry Platform, fulfill crucial bottlenecks for quick and high-throughput protein analysis, immunophenotyping, and functional profiling and assessments.
A leading superpower of advanced systems is the concurrent detection of several parameters in a single sample. On the iQue® Platform, for instance, users could leverage bead-based assays to quantify several cytokines, immune cell subsets, and other immune markers involved in infectious diseases.
An advanced flow cytometry workflow on the iQue® Platform. Image Credit: Sartorius UK Ltd
Published examples in vaccine development and more
The potential to execute high-content assays in a highly simplified and affordable method is why many follow the “advanced” route for flow cytometry.
When developing vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases, users can determine countless examples of sophisticated, high-throughput flow cytometry platforms being utilized.
Predictably, several studies performed are on SARS-CoV-2, with one remarkable mention of a vaccine candidate that received emergency usage authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Other featured studies touch on the Zika virus, Ebola virus, and HIV.
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