Using the same multispectral analysis concept that enables satellites to study the earth's surface, Purdue University researchers have developed a system that quickly determines the composition of cells and tissue for medical diagnostics and scientific applications. The method, which works by analyzing many separate colors in an object or surface, has been applied to the field of flow cytometry or analyzing cells that are contained in a liquid flowing past a laser beam, says J. Paul Robinson, director of Purdue's cytometry laboratories. "Flow cytometry has been an important analytical tool for research and medicine for many years," he explained. "We have now modified this tool so that much more information can be gleaned in the same amount of time." The new technique enables researchers to study 32 colors from a single cell flowing past a laser beam in a fraction of a second, promising to yield a wealth of data about cells for applications ranging from medicine to homeland security. The technique also could be used to analyze larger objects, such as the pattern of bacteria to detect food-borne contamination and other types of diagnostics.