Automated NonFlow Cell Counters

Before the digital and automation age, cell counting was performed by using a microscope paired with a hemocytometer. While this decades-old manual method is still being utilized by labs, the primary advantage of this technique is its low cost. Its many drawbacks include a lack of precision, low accuracy, lot-to-lot variability and labor intensiveness. In addition, it is time consuming and can only analyze a limited number of samples with minimal cell counts. Nowadays, scientists have other options for counting cells and measuring cell viability, density and differentiation among cell types. While flow cytometry is the fastest and most preferred method of counting cells, it is expensive.

Automated nonflow cell counters use digital image recognition, which essentially automates a hemocytometer. Nonflow cell technology utilizes a CCD camera to photograph the hemocytometer and analyzes the images using software, resulting in an accurate and objective analysis. Many of the instruments use the trypan- or methalyne-blue exclusion method to distinguish between live and dead cells. In general, systems are dedicated to counting either yeast or different types of mammalian cells. Some vendors even go a step further by adding fluorescence capabilities.

The throughput and analysis capabilities vary from system to system. Typically, systems can distinguish cells that are larger than five microns. However, specialty systems can distinguish cells as small as one micron. Most automated nonflow cell counters can also measure cell viability and concentration and monitor live cells using integrated video enhancements.

Vendors of automated nonflow cell counters include Beckman Coulter, ChemoMetec A/S, Innovatis AG and Nexcelcom Biosciences. Nexcelcom offers the Cellometer Auto T4 and high-resolution Auto M4 models, as well as a system that combines cell counting with fluorescence detection. ChemoMetec provides three fluorescence-based systems: the NucleoCounter YC-100 for yeast cells, the NucleoCounter SCC-100 for somatic cells in milk and the NucleoCounter SP-100 for sperm cells. Beckman Coulter’s V-Cell is a cell viability tester, but has the capabilities to count cells as well as to measure cell concentration and size. Innovatis AG offers the CEDAX Series of cell counters in both standard high-resolution configurations, in addition to a model designed for yeast samples.

The market for automated nonflow cell counters is estimated to be nearly $25 million. While pharmaceutical, biotechnology and independent laboratories are more likely to have the finances to use flow cytometry, academic laboratories tend to stick with the manual hemocytometers, contract out their cell counting experiments to core facilities with flow cytometers, or purchase automated nonflow cell counters, which is fueling market growth.

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