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UNC’s new mass cytometry core facility opening in Marsico Hall


The new UNC Mass Cytometry Lab, located next to the Flow Cytometry Core in Marsico Hall, is opening soon under the directorship of Marie A. Iannone. The Lab will offer researchers state-of-the-art high-dimensional single cell analysis by combining elements from flow cytometry and inductively-coupled plasma mass spectroscopy. Also called CyTOF (for time-of-flight cytomety), this powerful new technology enables massive multiparametric analysis of single cell suspensions to investigate cellular responses in heterogeneous populations. Cells are stained with 30 or more antibody probes that are each coupled to unique transition elements and lanthanides.

The presence and abundance of the metal tags on surface epitopes and intracellular markers of individual cells are used to understand cell responses such as cytokine production, phosphoprotein signalling, or nuclear antigen expression in such complex and heterogeneous populations as hematopoietic and cancer cells

Figure 1. CyTOF operation. The labeled cell suspension (1) is nebulized into single cell containing droplets (2), which are injected into an inductively-coupled plasma torch (3) where they are vaporized, atomized and ionized. The resulting single cell ion cloud (4) then enters the mass spectrometry component of the instrumentation where the quadrupole (5) filters out the lower masses. In the time-of-flight module (6), ions in the cloud are ordered from light to heavy based on charge to mass ratio. From: Bendall et al. Trends Immunol 33, 323 (2012).

UNC recently installed the latest Helios™ model mass cytometer in the Flow Cytometry Core Facility in the basement of Marsico Hall. The new lab provides comprehensive end-to-end expertise in panel design, protocol development, data acquisition and analysis of single cell data. It is open to all UNC researchers and others in the Research Triangle. The new facility is led by Marie Iannone, Senior Research Scientist. The facility is funded in part through the the University Cancer Research Fund and the UNC School of Medicine with additional support from the Center for Aids Research, Qura Therapuetics and the Department of Genetics.

This exciting new technology is now open to researchers who are interested in deep profiling of complex cell populations. First steps involve working with our experts to develop and optimize a customized antibody panel based on the biology of the system. Multi-dimensional data analysis is available using Cytobank, a web-based software tool that offers high dimensional data visualization tools such as SPADE, FlowSOM and viSNE.

UNC will host a Mass Cytometry Research Day on October 22, 2018 featuring local and invited speakers to share their work and experiences. In addition, Bruce Bagwell from Verity Software House will present an overview of the GemStone™ data analysis software.

Figure 2. Cytobank-generated viSNE analysis of C57BL/6 spleen cells with CD3 heat map in red. CD3-negative cells are indicated in blue. Transitional populations are displayed as yellow/green.

Please contact for more information about the Mass Cytometry Lab.