Mass cytometry is a mass spectrometry technique based on inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry combined with mass tags that allows accurate measuring of various molecular species on single cells in a highly multiplexed fashion. In this approach, antibodies are tagged with isotopically pure rare earth elements and these are used to tag the components of cells.
Cells are nebulized and sent into argon plasma, breaking molecular bonds and ionizing metal tags, which are then analyzed by a time-of-flight mass spectrometer. The approach overcomes limitations of spectral overlap that limit flow cytometry, allowing simultaneous quantification of 50 mass tag channels.
Tagging technology and instrument development occurred at the University of Toronto and DVS Sciences, Inc, which has been acquired by Fludigm in 2014. Our lab was one of the pioneer users of mass cytometry, for the first time applying it to profile the hematopoietic continuum and assess signaling responses to drug treatments on a single cell level. We are continuously developing methods and applications and using the technology to profile a variety of human healthy and disease conditions.