Every scientist has their go-to experts whom they trust and turn to when experiments absolutely just have to work. When it comes to cell analysis and flow cytometry, scientists at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver turn to the flow core laboratory run by Karen Helm and her well-trained staff. Helm decided years ago, when small entry-level flow cytometers became more affordable, to focus on high-end flow cytometers that can run multiple parameters and very complicated assays. However, since the flow core lab is a shared resource facility that serves a lot of different customers, from the experienced to the most novice users, the instruments need a lot of flexibility and need to be able to run “the easy stuff too.”
When Bio-Rad Laboratories and Propel Labs partnered to design a game-changing cell analyzer, we approached scientists running high-complexity experiments and flow core labs with multiple users for help. We invited experts like Helm to tell us what features they wanted in their dream machine. We listened and learned, and then we built the ZE5 Cell Analyzer. Just like they asked.
What was on Helm’s wish list? “Our lab needed an analyzer with more than ten colors, but we wanted an instrument that had no collinear lasers, was easy for customers [to use], and that could handle multiple tube sizes.” Her previous cell analyzer just wasn’t up for the challenge. “We had a system that had somewhat of a plate sampler,” she adds about her other platform, “but it was a little complicated to use.” Instead, she needed a platform that was more flexible, something “that could very easily handle plates, but [also tubes] because a lot of people still bring things in tubes, and we didn’t want to switch between those two systems.”
The ZE5 Cell Analyzer is designed to accommodate everyone who walks in through your flow core lab doors. They can come in with individual tubes, 96-well plates, and even 384-well plates. The integrated, universal sample loader lets users choose their required format without needing to change the holder or transferring from plates to tubes. For the busy core lab, this means the instrument can be used continuously to generate more data and more revenue. Helm agrees. “I am really pleased that tube samples and the plate samples are one and the same. There’s no switching in between, so there’s no time loss between customers.”
Helm further notes that they didn’t have an analyzer that could analyze more than ten colors, but that that was where the science was going. “ZE5 has definitely helped us move beyond ten colors. As soon as we opened it up to our customers, we had people walking in the door with 14, 15 colors. Over the last five years, I’ve seen people really trying to move to more colors. They need more information, more parameters to be measured.”
Although the flexibility built into the ZE5 Cell Analyzer makes things easier in the core lab, the power of having five lasers and up to 30 parameters in each experiment is really what lets the core lab drive innovation. In addition to enabling users to run up to 30 parameters, the ZE5 Cell Analyzer also lets users run rare event analyses, which are very important in stem cell and cancer applications. Helm frequently helps her customers carry out rare event analyses and thinks the side population analysis feature on the ZE5 Cell Analyzer “is a work of art.” The thing she likes best about her job is that she gets to do things that no one else in the world does. “I really like that we can participate, help design new assays, and help people get the answers that they need.”