This was our first meeting of the year and we had a great turnout. Everyone was very excited to hear about the new developments on the CyTOF instrument from Fluidigm. There are 3 CyTOFs here in San Diego now. Cheryl Kim introduced Tad George from Fluidigm who brought us up to date on the latest developments on the CyTOF and the software used to analyze the high complexity data. They start with a program called Max Par which helps in designing the panels for flow depending on your target of interest and analyze using various programs such as SPADE and viSNE to help reduce the dimensionality to make the data understandable. The big data generated from these large antibody panels to help elucidate cell how cells are behaving in many different types of tissues is daunting and these programs are allowing scientists to get a better grasp on the biology.
Raul Catena from the University of Zurich gave a fascinating talk about how they are developing a 3D reconstruction model based on the imaging mass cytometer. Using modified equipment, they do serial sectioning of tumors, label them with antibodies to 44 different targets, and reconstruct the tumor data within their microenvironment. One of the issues with doing tumor research on whole tumors using normal flow cytometry is that the tumors have to be fresh so they don’t have a large population of dead cells and the tumors need to be digested to get a single cell suspension. Using the new technology of the imaging mass cytometer, even FFPE samples can be used, and the tumor does not need to be digested. This allows the researcher to understand the microenvironment of the tumor and how cell populations change with different drug treatments. They have a very low detection limit of 100 copies and a 1um resolution. They are currently studying phosphorylation within the tumors to better understand what drug treatments will work in different tumors. They are also developing better software to visualize and interpret the high complexity data. Also in development is a way to understand where labeled drugs are going within the tumor. Because of the use of metal tags in mass cytometry, they can label the drugs with specific metals and monitor where they go.
We look forward to the next SDSC meeting in a few months and following the exciting research using flow cytometry.