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Imaging flow cytometry using holographic virtual staining

Project description

A novel imaging flow cytometry platform eliminates the need for fluorescent labelling

Flow cytometry is a powerful analytical tool for high-throughput and multiparametric analysis of biological cells, enabling detection of single-cell characteristics in fluorescently stained cells. Imaging flow cytometry (ICF) builds on flow cytometry by adding imaging capabilities to analyze the morphology of thousands of cells in heterogeneous cell populations. Now, the HoloStain project is making the best even better. Eliminating the need for time-consuming, labour-intensive cell staining, HoloStain’s ICF technology exploits holographic imaging that is capable of imaging the cell refractive index and machine learning to enable virtual staining of label-free samples. HoloStain plans to simplify ICF, reduce the cost and decrease the expertise required for high-accuracy and repeatability, enhancing access to this powerful screening and diagnostic tool.


Imaging flow cytometry (IFC) holds great promise as clinical screening and diagnostics platform, as it can capture, process and analyse a large number of cells in bodily fluids, useful for hematology and hemato-oncology. However, currently IFC captures cell morphology by imaging each fluorescently-stained cell organelle on a different region of the camera sensor, dictating complicated and expensive optics and processing units. Current IFC remains a highly inaccessible technology, due to its very high cost, lack of accuracy, required operator expertise, and lack of objectiveness. The global flow cytometry market is estimated as USD 3.29 Billion in 2017, and projected to reach USD 4.79 Billion by 2022. This rapid growth is due to anticipation of becoming more common in clinical use. In this project, we will develop and commercialize a novel IFC platform. Using an external portable interferometric module and novel analysis methods, we perform quantitative holographic virtual staining (HoloStain) of the multiple cell organelles, simultaneously on a single IFC channel, dramatically simplifying the optics, cameras, and processing. Preliminary results are provided. As HoloStain does not require cell staining for morphological evaluation, it is ideal for real-time sorting or subsequent cell use. Moreover, HoloStain provides multiple virtually stained slices from the same camera frame, earning higher throughput. These unique advantages are expected to revolutionize the IFC market in two possible product-realization pathways: (i) as a more cost-effective stand-alone IFC workstation, and (ii) as an add-on module to an existing IFC workstation, upgrading its capabilities. Both pathways are highly attractive for licensing to existing flow cytometry manufacturers or for founding a startup company. In this project, upon completing marketing requirement and product characterizations, we will build an alpha prototype, and present it to potential strategic partners and investors.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 150 000,00
Total cost
€ 150 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)