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Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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The first cell sorter

About fifty years ago, a Los Alamos scientist invented a method—still important in cellular biology labs today—to separate out particular types of cells.
November 25, 2013
The first cell sorter

Flow cytometry (cell measurement) uses cell sorting to divert cells of a chosen type out of a mixed stream of cells, like the blood cells shown here, for collection and study.

Los Alamos invented, and has regularly improved upon, the technology to isolate different kinds of cells.

In the early-mid 1960s, Los Alamos physicist Mack Fulwyler invented a device to isolate different types of cells. His invention, still a vital aspect of flow cytometry (cell measurement) in biological laboratories today, operates in a fashion similar to an ink-jet printer, redirecting a flow of tiny cell-containing droplets. With a laser and fluorescent tagging capabilities, its modern incarnation provides insight into the biochemistry underlying many diseases, including cancer and AIDS.

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