Aug 5, 2022
Innovation on display: from breakthroughs in medical research to a museum exhibit

By Scott Kerr, PhD, Senior Product Manager, Research Instruments

Science and collaboration are at the heart of our purpose-driven innovation at BD.

As we celebrate the 125th anniversary of BD, it’s fitting that a once-critical instrument enabling health breakthroughs has recently moved to Massachusetts General Hospital’s Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation—the namesake of the museum himself a pioneer in the field of transplantation surgery—where it will be showcased to the public in commemoration of both science and collaboration.

It was more than 20 years ago when Frederic Preffer, PhD, director of the Clinical and Research Flow Cytometry Laboratories in the Department of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, had a wish list for a cell sorting instrument that could help facilitate important cutting-edge research around organ transplantation and the many other needs in his large research setting. At the time, no such innovation was available.  

Leveraging our innovations in the field of flow cytometry, BD collaborated with Dr. Preffer and his team to custom design a BD FACSVantage™ Flow Cytometer, the leading cell sorter of the time, for their needs. The instrument uniquely incorporated both analog and digital electronics as well as optical components that were the prelude to the subsequent generations of cell sorters produced by BD.

“Throughout the years we have greatly enhanced our understanding of the immune system,” said Dr. Preffer. “This includes numerous breakthroughs in clinical research, such as using HLA-mismatched bone marrow in renal transplantation to reduce otherwise high levels of maintenance immunosuppression. Subsequent improvements in flow cytometric technologies have also spilled over and beneficially impacted our clinical flow operations, as well.”

Adds Dr. Preffer, “Today our clinical cytometers are capable of directly impacting patient care and management not only with rapid multi-measurement basic diagnostic capacities of hematopoietic malignancies but with their highly sensitive assessment of measurable residual disease. Such improvements make a difference every day in the care of such individuals, especially in the care of our pediatric patients.”

While more robust modern cell sorting flow cytometers can now fit easily on a benchtop, the now-vintage BD FACSVantage™ Flow Cytometer, utilizing multiple water-cooled ion lasers, took up a larger footprint. As such, actually moving the instrument from its original lab location to the Russell Museum required numerous team members across one week to carefully disassemble the cell sorter, move it to another building, and reassemble it so that it could function properly again.

Learn more about the exhibit at the Russell Museum and discover how our latest BD innovations in flow cytometry—from the instruments themselves to dye technologies and computational tools—are offering researchers the next leap forward to help advance treatments for chronic diseases.


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