A FACS check

The "How it Works"

By | September 27, 2004


The "How it Works" article on fluorescence activated cell sorting1 incorrectly suggests that Len Herzenberg developed the first fluorescence-activated cell sorter. In fact it was developed by Mack Fulwyler, Marv Van Dilla, John Steinkamp, and James Coulter.2 Fulwyler and colleagues adapted the principle of ink-jet droplet deflection developed by Richard Sweet to sort cells.3

At roughly the same time, Lew Kamentsky developed a fluidic-switch based cell sorter.4 Both Fulwyler and Kamentsky's sorters were developed to isolate cells to validate the analytical purpose of both instruments.

Len Herzenberg had the insight to see how cell sorting would be important to unravel the complexity of the immune system. His contributions (in 1972, after he had worked with Kamentsky's sorter) included convincing Becton Dickenson to commercialize an instrument equipped with a large laser (a concept first proposed by Mac Fulwyler and colleagues) and Richard Sweet's ink-jet sorter, to take advantage of fluorescence-tagged antibodies to isolate different populations of immune cells. Herzenberg accomplished this before the development and commercialization of monoclonal antibodies.

The term FACS (Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting) is a trademark of the Becton Dickinson Corp. A number of other companies currently provide cell sorters.

Bob Auer

T. Vincent Shankey

Advanced Technology Center, Beckman Coulter, Inc., Miami, FL vincent.shankey@coulter.com

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