Flow cytometry products have never been more widely available and varied. In fact, browsing flow cytometry product offerings may give an inexperienced user the impression that pre-existing staining kits will take care of all the work of developing a new assay. In contrast, experienced flow cytometry users may be more comfortable piecing together new staining panels on their own. Consider these benefits and challenges of using pre-existing staining kits compared with custom panels.
Pre-existing kits have the potential to save you time and money as the fluorescent antibodies have be pre-selected for the cell populations you are trying to detect. You don’t need to figure out which antibodies to buy or fret over fluorochrome compatibility.
- Pre-existing kits take some of the guesswork out of staining protocols as they also typically come with detailed instructions and additional reagents to assure consistent results.
- Pre-existing kits may be inflexible with respect to customized staining and inclusion of new antibodies. You may not be able to add a new antibody to your panel or you may find the antibodies included in a kit do not stain cells adequately.
- Many staining protocols from kits call for using more antibody than you may really need, so you may end up having to spend money on new kits sooner than expected. Custom panel development includes antibody titration so you know you are using the appropriate concentration of antibody.
- Custom antibody kits may not be available for specific sample types or species, and you cannot assume that a kit made for human samples could satisfactorily stain primate samples.
Pilot studies with kits or custom designed panels are the only way to assure that your staining method will work with your samples. Flow cytometry experts are also a good source of information to decide if a kit or a custom panel is the most reliable and cost-effective approach for your flow cytometry needs.