Technology development in biological research often aims to either increase the number of cellular features that can be surveyed simultaneously or enhance the resolution at which such observations are possible. For decades, flow cytometry has balanced these goals to fill a critical need by enabling the measurement of multiple features in single cells, commonly to examine complex or hierarchical cellular systems. Recently, a format for flow cytometry has been developed that leverages the precision of mass spectrometry. This fusion of the two technologies, termed mass cytometry, provides measurement of over 40 simultaneous cellular parameters at single-cell resolution, significantly augmenting the ability of cytometry to evaluate complex cellular systems and processes. In this Primer, we review the current state of mass cytometry, providing an overview of the instrumentation, its present capabilities, and methods of data analysis, as well as thoughts on future developments and applications.
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