Tom Linaker Obituary, Death – It was only possible to figure out the number of cells in a sample by physically counting them under the microscope, which was a slow and laborious process. He began this work in the 1960s, when scientists had already developed methods for distinguishing particular types of antibody or antigen using fluorescent markers. This technique is known as immunofluorescence.
Herzenberg was convinced that it should be possible to design a machine that could do the job. He discovered that scientists at Los Alamos, New Mexico, had developed a machine that was capable of sorting cell-sized particles by volume in order to analyze the lung contents of mice and rats that had been exposed to nuclear fallout from atomic bomb testing. He was successful in convincing them to give him permission to take the blueprints of their invention back to his laboratory at Stanford University.
Herzenberg, with the assistance of two engineers, modified the Los Alamos machine to develop the first FACS in the basement of the medical school for a cost of approximately $14,000. The machine was given the moniker “The Whizzer.” In 1969, they published an article in Science in which they described their discovery. The FACS operates by separating cells based on the fluorescent markers that are present on them.
For instance, green-tagged cells are redirected into one tube, red-tagged cells are redirected into another tube, and untagged cells are redirected into yet another tube. This process is carried out with the use of a technique known as flow cytometry. The FACS can separate out uncommon immune stem cells for further study or identify populations of cells that are fluctuating in diseases such as cancer or HIV because scientists can link the markers to antibodies that home in on and attach to proteins that are only found in certain cell types.
This allows the FACS to do both of these things. By the early 1970s, Herzenberg and his colleagues had included a laser to make the cells flash more brightly, and they requested the inventor of the inkjet printer, Dick Sweet, to assist them in improving its droplet-sorting technology. Both of these accomplishments took place in Herzenberg’s lab. By 1971, the FACS was able to sort 5,000 cells per second at its maximum capacity.
The FACS evolved into an important instrument for the study of HIV and other infectious diseases. Today, more than 40,000 of these devices are utilized in laboratories and hospitals all over the world for the purpose of developing new drugs, diagnosing illnesses, researching cancer, immunology, molecular biology, and stem cell research. Recently, it has been referred to be one of the most significant advances in medical technology that has ever been made.
Leonard Arthur Herzenberg, the son of a garment salesman, was born on November 5th, 1931 in the borough of Brooklyn, New York, in the United States. Before beginning his doctoral research at the California Institute of Technology, he received his undergraduate education at Brooklyn College, where he majored in both Chemistry and Biology. He worked at the National Institutes of Health from the time he finished his postdoctoral studies with Jacques Monod at the Pasteur Institute in Paris until 1959, when he was invited to work at Stanford.