Intelligent image-activated cell sorting 2.0
The advent of intelligent image-activated cell sorting (iIACS) has enabled high-throughput intelligent image-based sorting of single live cells from heterogeneous populations. iIACS is an on-chip microfluidic technology that builds on a seamless integration of a high-throughput fluorescence microscope, cell focuser, cell sorter, and deep neural network on a hybrid software-hardware data management architecture, thereby providing the combined merits of optical microscopy, fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), and deep learning. Here we report an iIACS machine that far surpasses the state-of-the-art iIACS machine in system performance in order to expand the range of applications and discoveries enabled by the technology. Specifically, it provides a high throughput of ~2,000 events per second and a high sensitivity of ~50 molecules of equivalent soluble fluorophores (MESFs), both of which are 20 times superior to those achieved in previous reports. This is made possible by employing (i) an image-sensor-based optomechanical flow imaging method known as virtual-freezing fluorescence imaging and (ii) a real-time intelligent image processor on an 8-PC server equipped with 8 multi-core CPUs and GPUs for intelligent decision-making, in order to significantly boost the imaging performance and computational power of the iIACS machine. We characterize the iIACS machine with fluorescent particles and various cell types and show that the performance of the iIACS machine is close to its achievable design specification. Equipped with the improved capabilities, this new generation of the iIACS technology holds promise for diverse applications in immunology, microbiology, stem cell biology, cancer biology, pathology, and synthetic biology.