The Flow Cytometry Facility is a resource for numerous investigators.

To help us maintain the flow cytometry laboratory functionality and performance at its best, we ask that you read and follow our guidelines and be considerate of other users.

As with all laboratories, eating, drinking, smoking and application of make-up is not allowed in the flow cytometry laboratory.

If you have questions or requests, please email Susanne.Heck@gstt.nhs.uk, Head of BRC Flow Core.

General rules and guidance for self-service instruments

  • Before first use of any core laboratory services users must register with iLabs (PDF 235Kb), our online booking and invoice system, and send a completed Flow core registration form to BRCFlowCore@gstt.nhs.uk
  • Attend all relevant training
  • No samples above a Biosafety level of 2 (BSL2) can be processed or sorted in the BRC Flow Core laboratory. Users that wish to run samples containing any agents above BSL2 must fix the samples to inactivate the infectious agent and contact the Head of BRC Flow Core (Susanne.Heck@gstt.nhs.uk) before the first run of any such sample material. Failure to do so will result in immediate termination of all access rights
  • All samples must be brought to the laboratory in a secondary containment with securely fitted lid
  • Due to limited capacity the flow cytometry laboratory can not refrigerate/freeze user samples for longer than the stay in the laboratory
  • The flow cytometry core does not provide standard consumables such as FACS tubes, antobodies, 96 well plates etc, these are to be brought by the user
  • Self service instruments are available 24/7 to internal users except during maintenance and repair periods. Out of hours and weekend work requires users to adhere to the Trust lone worker policy (PDF 88Kb) and to have their own authorized Trust ID card. Users found to gain access on colleagues’ ID cards will have their access rights suspended until this situation is corrected and their PI will be notified
  • Data acquisition on the BRC analysers is done by researchers and considered as self-service on CANTO, Fortessa, Luminex and ImageStream platforms. All experiments are performed by trained researchers themselves unless flow cytometry laboratory personnel assistance is requested. This service must be booked in advance by emailing the team and incurs additional charges.
  • To book instrument time or services, please use the online iLabs booking system for communicating with the core, please DO NOT email individual team members, these requests will be ignored as we need an audit trail of all requests
  • The experiments are scheduled on a first-booked-first-served basis
  • You may schedule in 15 minute increments and generally should not book more than 4 hours at a time during prime usage time (weekdays: 12 noon to 8pm). Our NIHR Biomedical Research Centre members will have priority access to the instrumentation. No single user can book more than 8 hours of prime time usage per week. Please discuss exceptional booking needs exceeding this limit in advance with the BRC Flow Core team: BRCFlowCore@gstt.nhs.uk
  • Users who do not arrive within 30 minutes of their start time forfeit the booking. Anyone may use the cytometers after this 30-minute grace period and may not be asked to leave
  • Users who book a timeslot they are unable to use must delete their booking from the calendar no later than 2 hours before the appointment. After this deadline, the scheduled time will be billed in full even if the researcher does not use the instrument
  • The flow cytometry laboratory staff reserve the right to review the time scheduled for an experiment with the user to avoid unnecessary blocking of the instruments
  • The last booked user of the day on any instrument is responsible to shut it down, please check the calendar. This also applies when users book, but then not use the instrument in the end.
  • During acquisition, the data files can be on the computer attached to the instrument. After completion of the experiment, all the files should be moved out immediately to the FACS data transfer server. Do not record directly onto alternative storage media, you will lose data
  • Flow cytometry laboratory staff are not responsible for data files left on facility computers nor for long term storage of user data. Files left on the hard disk will be removed during regular monthly database maintenance without further notification
  • Flow Cytometry staff is not responsible for the security of user data on the FACS data transfer drive, which is not setup as long term storage device. Users must download and safely store their data onto devices within their own research groups.
  • The use of USB sticks and external hard drives for data transfer as well as using internet browsers on the instrument workstations is not allowed to reduce the risk of virus infections. Users must use the network server for data transfer as instructed during training
  • Access to the ARIA1 sorter for self service is restricted to advanced users that have a certificate of participation in an official ARIA operator training course (please contact BD Biosciences for up to date information). Self-service access is limited to weekend and after hour work (after 5 pm Monday to Friday unless a facility run sort goes beyond 5pm in which case the service sort takes priority) while ARIA1 is a facility only operated instrument during regular business hours Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Self- service operators are responsible for start up, run and shutdown of the instrument and must clean up in accordance with facility rules. Before first time usage self-operators must make an appointment with the facility staff to obtain a local induction (email brcflowcore@gstt.nhs.uk). Repeated failure to safely operate the instrument or adhere to facility policies will result in a review/revoking of the access rights. Booking for self service slots is done by facility staff only, please submit the online sort booking form
  • Users are responsible to pay the fees for all services as agreed upon signup. If payment is outstanding for more than 45 days, the user account will be suspended until payment is received in full
  • Users must inform the core facility in writing two month before any grant code expires and provide a new valid funding source.

General rules and guidance for facility operated services

  • Cell sorters, mass cytometers and the Parasortix/DEPArray setup are facility operated only. The facility maintains and QCs the instruments on a daily basis. If an instrument breaks down, users will be notified immediately via email. All instruments are under service contract and will be repaired as soon as possible.
  • To book time on facility operated platforms, please make a booking on the instrument calendar via ilabs. The facility staff will review your request and confirm(or reject) your booking. You will receive a notification via ilabs
  • Before any first time run of an operator-run service please schedule a consultation session and contact us via brcflowcore@gstt.nhs.uk.
  • The BRC Flow Core offers an antibody conjugation service for mass cytometry reagents, which can be booked via ialbs. Please review reagent requirements before your first order by contacting us via brcflowcore@gstt.nhs.uk.
  • Cell sorters are highly subscribed instruments. Users can book sorts up to 6 month in advance. However, no single user can book more than 10 hours of total sort time per week as we strive to offer equal access for all. Should you not be able to schedule a sort at the desired time, we will offer you an alternative or you can subscribe to our sort waiting list in iLabs
  • To cancel a sort please submit a sort cancellation form via ilabs. Sorts cancelled 72 hours (3 days) in advance will not be charged. Sorts cancelled within 48 hours (2 days) or less of the scheduled time will be charged in full unless the facility can fill the vacancy with another sort. Users will be informed if we could fill the opening, otherwise their account will be automatically charged
  • If an instrument breaks down, no charges will be raised for any sorts that cannot be done though we will always strive to allocate slots on any of the other instruments
  • All sorters use sterile 1XPBS as sheath fluid. Users can request a different sheath fluid if their cell type should require this. The user will supply a minimum of 5L of alternative sterile sheath fluid at least 2 days in advance of their sort. A change of sheath fluid incurs an additional fee of £150 to cover the time for the special setup
  • Users working with clinical samples with sometimes unpredicatable schedule are urged to discuss their needs with the Head of the BRC Flow Core before the start of their project as we do not have after hour staffing at this time.
  • Users are responsible to pay the fees for all services as agreed upon signup. If payment is outstanding for more than 45 days, the user account will be suspended until payment is received in full.
  • Users must inform the core facility in writing two month before any grant code expires and provide a new valid funding source.

Regular weekly maintenance

Regular weekly maintenance on all flow cytometry self service instruments is performed by flow cytometry laboratory staff and is scheduled on Mondays from 9 am to 10.30 am. It includes the following procedures:

  • Instrument cleaning according to manufacturer instruction for regular maintenance
  • Quality Control according to manufacturers protocol
  • Fresh preparation of all the solutions for spray bottles and cleaning tubes
  • Discard of all unlabelled sample tubes and racks from the desks and bench
  • Purge of all illegitimate files from the computers

Without special announcement, the facility will purge all data files on the BD analysers on the first Monday of every month in order to maintain the systems at optimal running speed.

The facility will not announce this regular data cleanup and users are responsible to backup their data regularly. The facility is not responsible for data storage and retrieval.

Last Maintenance by users

  • Users must run cleaning tubes at the end of their experiment. Detailed instructions are posted on the instruments. Tubes are available next to the instruments.  Users that are repeatedly found repeatedly not following cleaning procedures may have their access rights suspended for a period of time.
  • Users must empty the waste tanks or fill up the sheath tank if necessary as instructed during training. Check levels before starting to acquire samples. The waste tank must be filled with 1 liter of bleach after it was emptied. All BD analysers use BD FACS flow buffer as sheath fluid. Boxes are available in the flow lab.
  • During regular business hours (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) users must set instruments on standby when they are finished with their run.
  • After-hours and on weekends users must shut down the fluidics and turn the instruments off when they have finished cleaning after their acquisition.
  • Users that fail to shut down the instruments at the end of the day or when they are the last user of the platform on the weekend will be billed the hourly rate of the analyser between their log-off and 9 am on the following workday. Their PI will be notified.
  • Do not under any circumstances let instruments or let tubes run dry. This introduces air bubbles into the system which are hard to clear out.
  • Users must filter all samples that go on the sorters, the mass cytometers and the Image Stream analyser through a nylon mesh filter to remove clumps. These cause clogging which is difficult and time consuming to clear. Nylon filters are available from BD Falcon (Falcon 2235), Partec (CellTrics sterile filter caps) or as sheets of nylon mesh (e.g. from B-CMN-40 from small parts).
  • Users must clean the bench space around the cytometers from any spills and discard tubes, tips etc into the biohazard waste containers. All non biohazard waste is collected in regular waste bins.
  • If a problem occurs with any of the instruments, please seek assistance first from the flow cytometry laboratory team. If nobody is available at that moment, send the team staff an email BRCFlowCore@gstt.nhs.uk to notify them of the problem and place a note on the screen to inform other users.