It’s called FACSymphony A5 and it is the new flow cytometry in use at the laboratories in Humanitas Research. Unique in Italy and among the few available in the world, this tool allows you to do basic and translational research at the highest level. Translational research refers to the medical research that can be translated into medical practice with positive health outcomes. We spoke with Dr. Enrico Lugli, Cytometry Unit Manager and Principal Investigator of the Laboratory of Translational Immunology at Humanitas.


cytometryFrom left: Dr. Achille Anselmo, Dr. Enrico Lugli, Dr. Federico Colombo


What is a flow cytometer?

The flow cytometer is a laboratory tool that counts, recognizes and separates individual cells based on specific markers. Allowing the simultaneous analysis of physical parameters, phenotypic and functional of tens of thousands of cells per second.


What are the advantages of the FACSymphony A5 flow cytometer?

“Current technologies available in the Laboratory have allowed us to analyze individual cells simultaneously measuring up to 20 parameters. Thanks to the development work carried out at Humanitas in partnership with the BD Biosciences team in San Jose California. This new machine is able to analyze up to 30 state of the art parameters. Furthermore, it is arranged to get to 50. The analysis of single cell diversity at the complex level of cell populations like human blood is revolutionizing modern biology. This is because it allows us to precisely identify and characterize cell populations. Particularly so in the immune system, with potential clinical applications.”


In what fields is it used?

“Analysis can be performed on any body cell population. Although, the main areas of application here at Humanitas are immunology and hematology. The immune system remains especially relevant, and this technology allows you to know it in all its variety. With this tool, we can now understand how it works not only in healthy subjects, but also in those who are suffering from cancer as well as other types of diseases. We are investigating how the cells of the immune system behave in tumor tissue or how the immune system is corrupted. In fact, some components of the immune system, rather than fight cancer, support growth and hinder the effectiveness of some treatments at our disposal today.

The introduction of this equipment is essential for translational research because it allows the monitoring of patients undergoing experimental anticancer therapies by simultaneously analyzing thousands of cell populations and identifying predictive markers of response to therapy.

At the level of preclinical research, FACSymphony is of great help in the study and in the identification of new molecular mechanisms of the immune systems functioning. ”

Dr. Lugli concludes that: “FACSymphony does not currently apply in the field of diagnosis. It is possible that in the future, it may help in the diagnosis of the path of the blood cancers, identifying the different subgroups and therefore allowing different approaches to treatment.”