A Comprehensive Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Pathways to Discovery: Fall 2012

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Cytometry and Antibody Technology Facility Propels Science Forward

Scientific discovery is facilitated by the latest technologies used by expert hands. The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCCCC) provides its members access to a number of shared resources, or core facilities, which house state-of-the-art technologies necessary for performing sophisticated research.

The UCCCC Cytometry and Antibody Technology (CAT) Facility, directed by Anne Sperling, PhD, associate professor of medicine, provides scientists with all of the tools and expertise required to measure the properties of cells and their products. For cancer researchers, analyzing a cell’s phenotype––in other words, a cell’s behavior and structure––and function are critical for understanding what goes wrong when cancer develops.

The CAT Facility operates two subcores. The Fitch Monoclonal Subcore develops reagents, including novel monoclonal antibodies and fluorescently-coupled antibodies to label or tag cells. The Flow Cytometry Subcore provides the expert staff and technologies, such as flow cytometers, to use these reagents in cellular analyses.

Flow cytometers are commonly used to diagnose diseases, especially blood cancers, and have many other applications in basic research and clinical trials. The technology suspends cells in a stream of fluid that passes through a laser-based electronic detection apparatus, which counts and sorts up to thousands of particles per second based on specific cellular properties or tags. Researchers then have an isolated group of cells or particles they can analyze further. The CAT Facility accommodates the widespread needs for specialized cytometric analysis and provides the latest in high-speed cell sorting, including multilaser analyzers for performing polychromatic flow cytometry, image-based cytometers, and bead-based analyte detectors.

Additional services offered to UCCCC investigators include an antibody/hybridoma bank that provides commonly used, high-quality purified antibodies, pretitered conjugated antibodies for flow cytometry, and hybridoma lines.

A Streamlined Experience
Formerly operating as two separate cores, the Flow Cytometry Facility and the Frank W. Fitch Monoclonal Antibody Facility merged in 2011 to form the unified CAT Facility. In the past, these facilities often collaborated on the same projects, so merging into one facility was a logical step. Combining services also provides certain advantages to the core’s users. “We can leverage the expertise in reagent development and production from the Fitch Monoclonal Subcore so that our users have affordable and efficient access to commonly used reagents and will, therefore, be able to do more experiments with their limited funding,” according to Ryan Duggan, BA, technical director of the Flow Cytometry Subcore.

Purchasing monoclonal antibodies from the CAT Facility rather than from commercial vendors saves UCCCC researchers thousands of dollars. “Since the reagents produced by the CAT Facility are subsequently used for flow cytometric analysis, we can monitor which ones are in high demand and anticipate the needs of investigators,” according to Carol McShan, BA/BS, technical director of the Fitch Monoclonal Subcore. The Facility can also test the quality of their reagents, streamlining the entire process for researchers.  

Ernst Lengyel