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  • About the technology behind the mass cytometry platform (CyTOF®)

Article

About the technology behind the mass cytometry platform (CyTOF®)

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The NIPH’s mass cytometry platform uses high dimensional technologies for single cell analysis. The method gives broad and deep information from small cell volumes and is particularly powerful for identifying new marker combinations on a single cell level.

Helios massecytometer
Photo: NIPH.

The NIPH’s mass cytometry platform uses high dimensional technologies for single cell analysis. The method gives broad and deep information from small cell volumes and is particularly powerful for identifying new marker combinations on a single cell level.


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High dimensional technologies are required to resolve the complexity of the human biological responses, by contributing efficient identification of mechanisms, biomarkers and causality links, and providing a link (biomarkers) between advanced in vitro models and human cohort studies.  

Mass cytometry Analyses

The NIPH mass cytometry platform applies a Helios™ instrument for CyTOF (Cytometry by Time Of Flight mass spectrometry) analysis. Using metal isotope-tagged antibodies, this technology permits simultaneous detection of 40-50 markers in a single sample, resulting in trillions of marker combinations per cell. This allows for classification of cell subtypes and their activation status, and simultaneous detection of functional markers like intracellular cytokines, signalling pathways and proliferation. A variety of antibodies (including your own antibodies) can be used, as antibodies can be labelledwith metals in-house.

Benefits of the technology

The mass cytometry approach is particularly effective at identifying new combinations of characteristics that are easily overlooked in traditional (supervised) analyses. Another strength is the possibility to do detailed (immune) cell profiling on a single cell level in small blood volumes, as well as advanced experimental in vitro systems.

Combined with unsupervised mathematical algorithms, mass cytometry data are  powerful tools to explore and investigate the breadth and depth of your cell system with single cell resolution. Compared to flow cytometry, mass cytometry allows for a considerably higher number of markers and therefore detection of more dimensions in small volume samples, as well as easier panel design due to overcoming the limitations of spectral overlap. 

The NIPH platform provides expertise in CyTOF applications, experimental design and methodological considerations, as well as data collection by the Helios mass cytometer. Including a dedicated biostatistician, expertise in biostatistical analyses of the high-dimensional data sets is under establishment.  

Contact information

Please contact us if you are interested in discussing “single cell proteomics” in your cell system, human or animal study. 

You can reach us at