ISAC Lecture Report - EXOFLOWMETRY
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Italy is an "exotic" place in itself, but that Flow Cytometry in Italy might also be considered "exotic" is a new way of thinking. If you search the recent literature, setting as 100% all publications referencing “Flow Cytometry”, and then define “Exotic Flow Cyometry” as cytometry sub-topics not related to biomedicine, we find each subtopic accounts for 2-5% of the total reference list (e.g. biotechnology/applied microbiology 5%, multidisciplinary 5%, plant science 3%, veterinary 2%, and so-on (Boon N (2019): personal communication). Nevertheless, a large number of researchers, as well as several companies, seem to consider exotic flow cytometry interesting and important, and so registered for the First International Workshop on Exotic Flow Cytometry - EXOFLOWMETRY 2019, held in Rome. By "a large number", the conference attracted 100 registered participants (more if we include visitors), and nine supporting companies. These numbers may not seem large in comparison to more established and well known scientific meetings, but it has to be considered a great result for the new EXOFLOWMETRY concept.
Attendees were drawn from a number of European countries, with three US citizens, to participate in this workshop, which lasted three full days, two devoted to presentations at the ENEA Casaccia Research Centre, and the third a day of practical demonstrations at the National Institute of Health ISS in Rome. Four sessions and two sub-sessions were listed on the programme, the topics being:
1) Environmental Microbiology
2) Food Microbiology
- Sub session: Innovative methodologies and practical applications
3) Plant Biotechnology
4) Animal Cytometry
- Sub session: New instruments, new possibilities
Plenary talks provided overviews of the different sessions, and included a contribution by David Galbraith, as ISAC lecturer supported by the International Society for Advancement of Cytometry.
All sessions went smoothly, and the flow cytometry approaches were clearly described, with the pros and cons also being presented. The list of novel and unusual applications is impressive, and spanned from fish ploidy (e.g. in sturgeons) to flow sorting of FISHIS-labelled chromosome suspensions (Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization In Suspension...), from plant protoplasts to evaluation of oxidative stresses, from lymphoma in dogs to human sperm viability in demanding environments, from cell size and viability evaluation with unstained yeast and pollen grains to microbial ecology in complex populations, from microbial fingerprinting in emergency situations (e.g. contamination of drinking water) to continuous measurements of algae and bacteria in seas and inland waterways, from microbial contamination in dairy products to monitoring processes in winemaking, and the characterization of nanoplastic pollution in water.
During the workshop itself, there was very little time for relaxation, since we were constantly bombarded by new ideas and approaches. Fortunately, on Thursday 14th November, we relaxed at an exceptional evening event, starting with a visit to the "Palazzo e Galleria Borghese", a gem in the centre of Rome containing masterpieces by Canova and Caravaggio that you must see once in a lifetime (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galleria_Borghese). This was followed by a delightful group dinner at a local restaurant.
The workshop continued on Friday 15th November with hands-on practicals for a smaller group of 30 people, and experiments on pollen, algae, probiotic microbial populations, and FISHIS on chromosomes were performed on flow analyzers and sorters, with results being confirmed with a nearby 5 laser confocal microscope. All experiments and associated exercises were successfully completed. Was this beginner's luck, or did EXOFLOWMETRY arrive at the right time? Stay tuned for our next meeting...!