Flow cytometry – care and maintenance of flow cells

Flow cytometry – care and maintenance of flow cells

Flow cytometry – care and maintenance of flow cells

Improper use and care of a flow cytometry cell can cause inaccurate readings and inaccurate data. Improper care can also mean you have to spend hours on the phone with customer service, send your machine in for service, or replace the entire flow cytometer cell. In some cases, the entire optical system must be removed to replace the cage.

Chemicals to stay away from

Today’s industry standards are that most flow cytometry cells are made of quartz windows or fused silica components, so avoiding alkaline solutions with a pH above 9.5 is critical. These solutions can attack the quartz and degrade the optical properties. What happens is that these solutions can etch the quartz, rendering the flow cell almost unusable. Users will notice “streaks” in the channel of the flow cell, and if these streaks appear where the laser or detector is located, the cell will stop functioning.

How to avoid crystallization

Avoiding crystallization is very important. To avoid crystallization in the flow chamber, the user must always flush it with water. Thorough flushing is required after running buffers or saline solutions, especially high pH solutions. Whenever scientists leave a device unused overnight, it is important to ensure that the flow chamber contains a minimum of 10% organic mobile phase to avoid algal growth. Special coatings can be applied to the quartz material to prevent this type of growth.


Clean flow capillary and optical connectors/assemblies are critical to ensure proper operation of any flow cytometer or any machine that uses flow channel cells. An important note is not to allow solutions to dry out in a flow cell. Solutions that contain dissolved salts, proteins, or other solid solutes will damage the flow path. Also, researchers must be careful not to allow particles to enter the flow cell, as damage to the flow cell, such as scratching, can occur. Scratches will have a negative effect on the performance of the flow cell and if they are in the detector area, the flow cell will not work.

For easy cleaning, flush some distilled water through the flow cytometry cell. Take a syringe and fill it with a 10% surfactant solution. Insert the syringe into the flow channel and spray the preparation into the cell. After several injections, leave the solution in the flow chamber for a little more than 2 hours. The flow cell should be rinsed thoroughly with distilled water.

A cell can be left filled with buffer overnight. Weekend and long-term storage NSG recommends flushing the flow cell with distilled water, then filled with 20% ethanol. For drying purposes, the flow channel can be dried using a stream of pure nitrogen.

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