BD Accuri News

Rose Ann Cattolico, PhD, and James Barker Discuss the BD Accuri™ C6 with BD Biosciences

Rose Ann Cattolico, PhD, is professor of biology and ocean sciences at the University of Washington. James Barker served as research scientist and engineer in Dr. Cattolico’s lab, helped to evaluate the BD Accuri™ C6 flow cytometer, and became its operational expert. They spoke to us about their research on algae, its use in biofuels, and their experience with the BD Accuri C6.

Q: Can you tell us about the research in which you're using the BD Accuri C6?

Rose Ann Cattolico: It's broad based. We use algae to study lipid synthesis, the evolution of chloroplast and mitochondrial genomes, the development of toxic algal blooms, the ability of cells to survive long-term stasis, and population diversity in toxic algal species. All of these projects depend on being able to count the algal cells and look for components that are present in them, such as lipids and pigments, and whether the cells are alive or dead.

James Barker: One newer aspect is method development for assessing algae. High-throughput methods to identify what's in the cells, particularly the amount of lipid, are important for assessing the quality of components produced, both in biofuels and biofuel co-products.

Rose Ann Cattolico: The ultimate goal is to expand our database of knowledge for a group of organisms that is seminal to global ecosystem function. Until recently, not much attention has been paid to algal cell biochemistry, function, and genomics. So a set of rigorous research standards is critical.

James Barker: The difficulty of establishing standards is widely underestimated and unappreciated. For example, we've had a constant battle about whether and when dry weight is an appropriate measure.

Rose Ann Cattolico: We keep saying, "You really need to know how many cells there are." And they say, "That's a lot of work, we don't want to do that." And we say, "True, but it really increases the value of the data."

Q: How do you use the BD Accuri C6 in your work? From the white paper, you're counting cells and analyzing lipid content. What else?

Rose Ann Cattolico: We use a SYTOX® dye for viability, and we're looking at some newly developed dyes.

James Barker: We're studying the penetration rates and utility of different dyes, including some that are not yet widely used, as part of our method development.

Rose Ann Cattolico: It was an enormous gift to bring the BD Accuri C6 into our lab. We simply couldn't have done some of the cell cycle work or high-throughput screening we're doing now without that machine. The quantity and quality of work—and the productivity increase when you get it in your hands—are just amazing.

Q: Why did you choose the BD Accuri C6? What features were most important?

James Barker: One important feature was that it didn't cost half a million dollars! But the reason I recommended it so strongly, after the demo, was that it was so easy. The wide dynamic range makes it hard to lose your data. Even a relatively novice user can't make a lot of the mistakes that are so easy with other equipment. The selection of lasers and detectors was pretty much just right. The type of flow cell works well for living cells, and we didn't have to worry about losing cells from shear. And the footprint and sizing were just right for a lab of this size.

Rose Ann Cattolico: I needed a machine that wouldn't break down all the time, because we're so dependent on it. I also needed a machine that undergraduates could be taught to use easily, and we could trust them with this expensive piece of equipment.

James Barker: As a university laboratory, we rely partly on the work of students. It helps that the equipment is easy to clean, easy to maintain, and hard to break.

Q: So you use the BD Accuri C6 to teach flow cytometry to students?

Rose Ann Cattolico: Absolutely. When I told a colleague that the undergraduates in my lab actually learn how to do flow cytometry and PCR and other basic laboratory technologies, they stopped me and said, "Flow cytometry? That's really cool!" Many students have been trained to do flow on that machine, just in the year since we got it.

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