Cell complexes composed of two different cells labeled with different fluorophores can be detected as double positive events in the flow cytometer. Double positivity can originate not only from real complexes but from non-interacting coinciding cells as well. Coincidence has a high impact on the determination of the amount of platelet-granulocyte complexes since platelet concentration is in the orders of magnitude higher than that of the granulocytes. A computer model has been developed to simulate coincidence in the flow cytometer to reveal the contribution of coincidence to the overestimation of the total amount of platelet-granulocyte complexes. Mixtures of non-interacting fluorescent beads as well as EDTA-anticoagulated blood samples were analyzed in the flow cytometer. An excellent fit was found between computer simulated and measured data pairs. Bead mixture in the flow cytometer and simulation of that resulted in 37.3+/-1.3 and 35.7+/-0.6% double positivity, respectively. 30.2+/-4.3% double positivity was measured for EDTA-anticoagulated blood samples while simulation of that resulted in 28.3+/-0.6%. Double positivity attributed to platelet-granulocyte complexes in slightly diluted blood samples might originate in coincidence and not from true complexes.
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