When it comes to sorting cells or other small particles, there’s no better place to do so than USC. The university’s Flow Cytometry Facility recently acquired two top-of-the-line cell sorters, the BD FACSymphony and the BioRad S3e, thanks to generous support from several USC sources.

The BD FACSymphony is a state-of-the-art cell sorter that is being built specifically for the research needs of USC.

“There’s no better machine you can find on the market,” said Rong Lu, PhD, faculty director of the Flow Cytometry Facility, which is located on the Health Sciences Campus in the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.

The BD FACSymphony will enable labs at USC and beyond to advance their research in ways that were not previously possible. For example, it can detect new fluorescent colors. It can simultaneously isolate six cell populations and recover more cells from limited patient samples. It can also isolate very small particles, such as bacteria and viruses.

To enable scientific advances, the instrument is equipped with six lasers and can detect 30 fluorescent colors to collect data and separate individual cells. Furthermore, this machine will eventually be upgraded to 10 lasers that can sort cells based on 60 fluorescent colors — many of which are still being developed and manufactured.

The facility purchased this instrument, which cost more than $1 million, with matching funds from both the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Provost via the USC Office of Research. The BD FACSymphony will provide cell sorting capabilities not currently available at USC.

The second instrument, the BioRad S3e, is a user-friendly instrument, which can sort based on four fluorescent colors and is very gentle on cells. This easy-to-use machine has numerous automated capabilities and meets the needs of many scientists.

“It’s a one-button machine,” Lu said. “It’s really simple and gentle. And for any beginner, it’s a great startup machine.”

The instrument was purchased with a grant from the USC Core Instrumentation Fund.  The fund supports the acquisition of shared instrumentation that enables major research endeavors in the sciences, medicine and engineering.

The two new cell sorters further advance the facility’s existing instrumentation: BD SORP FACSAria I and II cell sorters with four lasers and 15 colors each, and a BD SORP LSR II Analyzer with three lasers and 10 colors.

“We’re all super excited about our new instruments, and this really puts USC at the leading edge in terms of flow cytometry in Southern California,” Lu said. “I expect that people from our neighboring biotech companies and research institutions, such as Caltech, UCLA and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, will come and take advantage of these features.”

— Cristy Lytal