Download Full Text (462 KB)


Flow cytometry provides critical diagnostic, measurement, and research applications across many healthcare and biological disciplines. Its use in the detection of blood-cancers, HIV/AIDS, cell differentiation, and viral detection is unique and unparalleled. Despite flow cytometry’s vast array of applications, its use is limited by expense. Rather than individual labs being able to afford a dedicated machine, core facilities are developed and the research is exported. In addition, flow cytometry’s high costs create a barrier to its implementation in developing nations.

There were 35 million people living with HIV in 2013, nearly 1% of the world’s population. There are more than 50,000 new cases of leukemia every year in the United States, accruing to more than 3% of all new cancer cases. More than 70,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, 4.3% of all new cancer cases, were estimated in 2014 thus far. About 530,000 people, in the United States alone, are living with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These diseases account for more than 1.5 million deaths every year. Flow cytometry can be and is a source of diagnostic measurement and monitoring of these and many other serious diseases. The problem lies in flow cytometry’s availability to world’s population.

A flow cytometry machine for the developing world should include the ability to count and distinguish cell types as well as detect a fluorophore-marked cell surface epitope. The machine should be low-cost and have streamlined functionality. Expected deliverables include computerized models of the individual components for 3D printing and a physical prototype.

Flow cytometry machines are typically sectioned in three aspects – optics, fluidics, and electronics – and our design concepts have been divided likewise.

Design concepts for the prototype optics currently include using LED lights or lasers salvaged from CD/DVD or Blu-ray players due to the extremely high cost of the currently used lasers. A CMOS type sensor or silicon array photodiode will reduce the cost of using the traditional photomultiplier tubes. In addition, costs will be reduced by the use of colored gel paper as bandpass filters.

Design concepts for the prototype fluidics include using a 3D printed flow cell or capillary array inspection point, in-case waste and sterilization management, and CAM arm- operated butterfly pump or syringe controlled flow.

The electronics aspects of the design include using an in-case microcontroller for fluid level alerts, switching between sample and sterilization fluids, data collection, and a LED or LCD display. Essential to the concept is an in-case uninterruptable power supply able to last long enough to finish running a sample and save the data.

Publication Date



biomedical engineering, flow cytometry


Biomedical Engineering and Bioengineering | Engineering

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Chris Lemmon

VCU Capstone Design Expo Posters


© The Author(s)

Date of Submission

July 2015

Flow-Cytometry Machine for the Developing World