It's remarkable to think that, until recently, the newest offering from Beckman Coulter was the FC500 (not counting acquisitions, like the Cyan and MoFlo)! It seems as though that is changing, rapidly. Beckman Coulter has recently announced two new players in the flow cytometer world. First up is the 3-laser, 10-color analyzer, Gallios. It seems pretty nice. I haven't gotten my hands on it yet, so I cannot give you the full run-down on it. They've certainly fixed a few problems that are found in their previous instrument (Colinear beams, more efficient light collection, better electronics, etc.) and so I'm sure it will be a huge step up from an FC500. However, there is still one thing that bugs me. It's billed as a RUO (research use only) instrument yet it has a tube carousel with a barcode reader on it!!! Seriously, who, outside of a clinical lab, uses a barcode system for their tubes. I find these carousel type loading systems to be really slow. I'd much rather pop tubes on and off, start and stop, add more buffer on the fly whenever I want. Instead, now I'm forced to use a carousel, and let it run. Not too happy about that. I do appreciate, however, the attention provided to light scattering. Light scattering seems like an afterthought on flow cytometers, but the Gallios has a forward scatter detector that can be optimized for small or large particles by adjusting the range of low angle light scatter detected. A wide position setting (1 to 19 degrees off normal) allows you to focus on smaller objects (bacteria, for example), while a narrow position (1 to 8 degrees) is ideal for larger cells. Lastly, you can use an enhanced wide angle module to focus in on submicron particle resolution. The data from this looks very promising.
The other new kid on the block is the Astrios (not sure about all the astronomical names), Coulter's new high-end cell sorter. First thing to note is, as I'm told, this is not a replacement of the MoFlo-XDP. The XDP will still be offered and developed. For how long? Who knows. The Astrios looks phenomenal. Here are a few stats: 6-way sorting, 7 spatially separated lasers, up to 30 fluorescence parameters, 0.3% Coincidence at 80,000 cells per second (cells, NOT beads). Is this for real? Time will tell, but after I wipe the drool from my mouth, I hope to get a test drive of this bad boy.
Along with the instruments, they will soon be releasing what I consider to be one of the best data analysis software packages around. Not just flow cytometry software, any data analysis software from any data intensive technology. It's called Kaluza, and it makes analyzing large data sets so easy and fast. I'm a FlowJo man, but the way this processes huge data files like it's nothing could turn anyone into a switcher. You just need to check it out to see it.
Speaking of checking things out, if you're in the Chicago-land area on May 21st, you can get an up-close-and-personal look at some of this technology. It's called the Flow Cytometry Big Bang Road Show, and it's coming to Chicago on May 21st, from 9AM to 4:30PM. More info can be found on the flow-centric Beckman-Coulter web site: www.coulterflow.com Or you can just go ahead and register for it here.