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Paying it forward in Flow Cytometry

1 May 2015

The scientific community is simultaneously highly competitive and highly collegial; embracing the joy to be the first to discover something with the pervasive culture of sharing knowledge. The Malaghan Institute’'s Manager of the Hugh Green Cytometry Core Facility, Kylie Price, recently gave her time to share her knowledge at the 4th ASEAN Cytometry meeting in Bangkok; a meeting borne out of goodwill and the spirit of assisting colleagues in developing nations.

She was one of ten flow cytometry experts who were sponsored to teach colleagues in developing countries, colleagues who do not have the financial resources to travel to Europe or America to attend workshops. The workshop was held in March at the Faculty of Medicine Siriaj Hospital in Bangkok.

Kylie is also the President of the Australasian Cytometry Society and explains, “"These ‘Pay it Forward’ workshops are the brainchild of a very special person - Dr Awtar Krishnan, an acknowledged international expert in flow cytometry.  He has lived in Miami for several decades now but has never forgotten his Asian roots.  He started the ISAC Live Education Task Force in 2001 to redress this inequality of access to training in developing nations."

"During his travels, he had noticed that while cytometry investigators may have been able to purchase expensive instruments and reagents, no one had taught them applications and settings, and no one provided them with training regarding specific applications at an affordable cost.  So he decided to fill that niche.”"

The first Indo-US workshop was in Chandigarh India with one smuggled NPE flow cytometer.  Since then, there have been 16 in India and several in Turkey, China, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Riyadh.    

Kylie says Dr Krishan is able to offer these workshops to participants at a greatly reduced cost because he lobbies for sponsorship from the makers of cytometry platforms to cover costs and the teacher’s' airfares and because the teaching faculty volunteer their time during the 4-day workshops.  For example, companies like BD –who are the makers of all the HGCC’s flow cytometers – ship the latest equipment to the workshops for the demonstrations.  “In the most recent workshop, 40 people who would not otherwise be able to find out about the latest applications or enjoy face-to-face discussions with experts, were able to meet because of Dr Krishnan’'s global approach.” 

In biotechnology, flow cytometry is a laser-based technology employed in cell counting, cell sorting, biomarker detection and protein engineering. It works by suspending cells in a stream of fluid and passing lasers through them to ‘excite’ the cells and markers they carry, these signals all then get collected by a very sophisticated detection system.  It allows for the simultaneous analysis of the physical and chemical characteristics of up to thousands of particles per second.  It is routinely used in the diagnosis of health disorders, especially blood cancers, but has many other applications in basic research, clinical practice and clinical trials.

Kylie says the Malaghan Institute has New Zealand’'s most powerful flow cytometry platform due to the generosity of the Hugh Green Foundation.  “Every day our researchers use this technology to investigate basic cell biology, and the interactions and behaviour of immune cells, in the fight against cancer, asthma, allergies and diseases of inflammation.  Being able to share what we do in Bangkok reinforced that there are many people who share our enthusiasm and passion for discovery.”

Kylie loves to share her knowledge and passion for flow cytometry with interested parties, she lectures at universities, gives presentations around New Zealand and is contacted often for her expertise in flow cytometry by scientists from all around New Zealand seeking her advice.  Flow cytometry is such a powerful tool that can be applied to answer so many scientists’' research queries, and Kylie enjoys the challenge of finding how flow cytometry can contribute to a groups understanding of the disease they research.