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Equipment and expertise at SickKids flow cytometry core facility supports advancements in cellular research
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Equipment and expertise at SickKids flow cytometry core facility supports advancements in cellular research


The SickKids-UHN Flow Cytometry Core Facility provides trailblazing researchers with access to the latest analytical flow cytometers and high-speed cell sorting services.

Have you ever wondered how researchers characterize different types of immune cells or identify cancer cells? A multisite research facility run by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University Health Network (UHN) offers a suite of instruments that can measure the physical and chemical properties of any individual cell.

The SickKids-UHN Flow Cytometry Core Facility is the largest academic facility of its kind in Canada, containing state-of-the-art analytical flow cytometers and high-speed cell sorting services available to researchers across the Greater Toronto Area. These cytometers allow scientists to quickly analyze and purify single cells and are most commonly used by immunologists and cancer researchers.

“Any lab that examines cells as part of their research will need flow cytometry,” says Dr. John Moniakis, Operations Manager for the facility located in the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning (PGCRL). “Our work is fundamental for routine research conducted at SickKids, but capabilities of our equipment extend far beyond this.”

(left to right) Sheyun Zhao, John Moniakis, and Emily Reddy in masks and lab coats. There is a computer and lab equipment behind them.

“We are building a collection of instruments that allow us to meet the current needs of the research community while anticipating opportunities for future research, supported by the latest technologies.”

Investing in the future

Led by Scientific Director Dr. Cynthia Guidos, Senior Scientist in the Developmental & Stem Cell Biology program and Scientific Director of the Center for Advanced Single Cell Analysis (CASCA), the team at the PGCRL Flow Cytometry Core Facility has supported 197 users from across 70 labs at SickKids in the last two years alone.

Emily Reddy in a mask and interacting with an instrument at the Flow Facility.

Dr. Emily Reddy, Manager of Analytical & Training Services, offers one-on-one consultations with researchers to help them make the best use of the instruments offered at the facility, from experiment design consultations to planning for data analysis.

“Our role is really to help scientists access and understand the potential of the instruments we offer, and present new avenues for possible approaches to research,” says Reddy.

With feedback from researchers across the institution, the team identifies opportunities to invest in new, specialized instruments.

Sheyun Zhao sitting at a computer while pointing at something on the screen. John Moniakis looks at the screen while standing behind Sheyun.

In line with SickKids’ commitment to sustainability, rather than discard older instruments, the facility uses a sustainable model of retaining older equipment to help train the instrument’s operators, led by Sheyun (Sherry) Zhao, Manager of Cell Sorting Services for the facility.

One of the instruments they plan to attain in the year ahead is a new cell sorter with a user-friendly interface that will allow scientists to get the results they need quicker and easier.

Sara Gordillo-Sampedro looking at her laptop screen. Flow Facility members are chatting in the background.

“As we move toward SickKids’ vision for Precision Child Health, in which every child will have access to individualized care, access to these advanced single cell analysis platforms with in-depth support from expert staff is essential for our scientists to be able to uncover novel research pathways for uncommon conditions, sooner,” explains Reddy.

From recent cancer research from Guidos and Dr. Jayne Danska in Cell Reports Medicine and Dr. Brent Derry in Science Advances, as well as HIV-1 research from Dr. Jean-Philippe Julien in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the Flow Cytometry Core Facility continues to be a pivotal resource for SickKids and UHN researchers. The facility is also open to the entire scientific community, from external researchers to corporate clients,

Need help with your research? Get in touch with the SickKids-UHN Flow Cytometry Facility.

The Flow Cytometry Facility provides researchers with access to several state-of-the-art analytical flow cytometers and high-speed cell sorting services. The facility is available to all members of the research community on a fee-for-service basis. Visit the Flow Cytometry Facility website to learn more and book equipment. 

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