Success Story

Acoustic Focusing Cytometer

The field of flow cytometry was originally invented at Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos) as a way to allow scientists to quantitate and examine cells by passing them through a laser-based detection device.

Thousands of cells per second may be analyzed individually, allowing rapid characterization of entire populations of cells as well as the detection of rare cells. Cell biologists use flow cytometry for a wide range of applications, including the study of cellular protein expression, immunophenotyping, quantification of cellular DNA, and measurement of a variety of cellular phenotypes for the purposes of basic cell biology research and drug discovery. Advances in the development of flow cytometry instrumentation at Los Alamos have benefitted from the support of the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In 2006, Los Alamos spun out a new company, Acoustic Cytometry Systems, LLC (ACS), to commercialize a novel flow cytometer technology. The company furthered the development of a method to use sound waves to guide cells through cytometers, or cell meters, allowing researchers to closely examine tissue samples for medical diagnostics. Unlike typical flow-through cytometers— which use fluids to rapidly push thousands, if not millions, of compounds through cytometers for drug discovery—the ACS technology allows researchers to use sound waves to completely stop the flow of tissue samples and focus on individual cells up close.

ACS was subsequently acquired in 2008 by Invitrogen Corporation, which later merged with Applied Biosystems to form Life Technologies. The company advanced the Los Alamos technology and developed the Attune® Acoustic Focusing Cytometer, a first-of-its-kind cytometer system that uses acoustic waves to precisely control the movement of cells during analysis. The system is based on a portfolio of intellectual property developed at Los Alamos for which Life Technologies (which was recently acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.) holds exclusive commercial license rights.

Acoustic focusing enables both longer transit times and higher throughput, which simultaneously permit better interrogation of every cell in a sample and analysis of much larger numbers of cells. By further developing Los Alamos’ acoustic cytometer technology and launching it as a commercial product, Life Technologies is poised to bring researchers and scientists one step closer to precise quantitation of molecular phenotypes at the single cell level, huge advancement in today’s biological and medical research capabilities.

The Attune® Acoustic Focusing Cytometer offers researchers a flexible, high-performance cytometer at less than half the price of comparable instruments. It improves the sensitivity, throughput, and accuracy of flow cytometry-based assays, while also enabling a greater variety of sample types than can be evaluated on traditional hydrodynamically focused cytometer systems. The Attune Cytometer provides extremely high-quality data and the flexibility to analyze complex samples with reduced interference.