Speed and sensitivity key to advanced cell imaging techniques

1st April 2013

The treatment of cells and cell cultures is one of the most complex and time-consuming work processes in today's life sciences laboratory.

The testing of active agents in and on cell culture systems as well as the effects caused on the cells over a certain period of time is becoming more and more important.

However, the methods used to treat and cultivate cells in the laboratory have barely changed over the past 20 years.

In Heidelberg, Germany, PROdesign has launched its innovative cell feeding station PROcellcare. Based on a 96-well plate, the system was initially developed by licensing partner European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL).

With this new PROcellcare system it will now be possible to execute tasks on live cells in high-throughput rates.

This automatic cell feeding system allows automated cell culture, the exchange of nutrient and working solutions and image and video analyses for basic works, such as the exchange of nutrient and working solution media, as well as for long-term tests.


Microtitre plate-based high-throughput of live cells under the Olympus IX81 microscope are combined with a nutrient rinsing and suction system which reduces conventional pipetting, handling and control processes to a minimum.

PROcellcare supplies live (in vitro) cells under the microscope in the optical axis with biological nutrient and working solutions, thus allowing the scientist to execute efficient and automatic dispensing and controlling processes.

The instrument is currently being applied within different market segments where live cell imaging is crucial, notably molecular biology R&D.

According to PROdesign, the PROcellcare system provides a number of functions which up to now have not been available in this price range, notably the freely configurable activation and control of pumps, engines as well as nutrient and working solutions supply systems. The user is also offered a library of software functions, which helps to configure individual working and cell culture environments as well as routines in accordance with user specific requirements.

In the UK, Preston-based Image Solutions (Imsol) has added the ONIX Dynamic Cell Culture Platform to its suite of scientific and industrial digital imaging technology. The move follows a partnership agreement signed earlier this year between Imsol and ONIX developer CellASIC.

Microfluidic cell culture

CellASIC is dedicated to advancing state-of-the-art microfluidic cell culture technology and its ONIX Platform delivers a high level of control for live cell imaging experiments. The platform integrates with users' existing microscope systems to enable dynamic time-lapse experiments that were previously impossible to carry out.

Microfluidic plates, one for yeast cells and one for mammalian cells, are at the heart of this latest technology.

The yeast cell microfluidic plate is optimised for time-lapsed imaging of yeast cells with solution exchange. The novel microfluidic cell trapping region holds yeast cells in a uniform focal plane for time-lapse cell microscopy during perfusion flow.

For its part, the mammalian cell microfluidic plate enables time-lapsed imaging of cultured mammalian cells with solution switching. The microfluidic cell culture region ensures optimal cell health during long-term microscopy studies.

In both versions, two independent flow units with identical flow properties allow simultaneous imaging of two sets of cell/medium combinations (Fig. 1).

At the core of the ONIX Platform is its flow control system that enables computer controlled dynamic flow switching for time-lapsed live cell microscopy.

"The distribution agreement with CellASIC complements our broad range of products in live cell imaging," says Ian Corless, Managing Director of Image Solutions. "As a forward-looking company, we believe CellASIC's products will bring another level of innovation to our current offering."

Finally, advanced cell imaging systems manufacturer Amnis has just announced the first commercial shipments of the new ImageStreamX imaging flow cytometers.

Detailed imagery

The new instrument - the second generation of Amnis' patented ImageStream technology - combines the speed, sensitivity, and phenotyping abilities of flow cytometry with the detailed imagery, rich feature set, and functional insights of microscopy.

Features include up to 1000 cells/second imaging, 12 image channels/cell, up to five excitation lasers, 60x/40x/20x magnification and a multi-well analyser (Fig. 2)

"The ImageStreamX is the result of focused technology development based on both a broad market research study and more than five years of very close work with our customer base," remarked William E Ortyn, Amnis' co-founder and chief operating officer. "If early market response is a good indicator of ultimate product success, then it appears this work was right on the mark," he added.

His comments are echoed by those of David Basiji, president and ceo: "Pre-sales of the ImageStreamX have greatly exceeded our expectations, particularly given the current economic climate. These sales results are due to the dramatic performance increase combined with the greater affordability and modularity of the new ImageStreamX, which allows the instrument to fit into a much wider range of labs and budgets."

He added: "The ImageStreamX has many of the attributes necessary to perform in the clinical market place. Over the next several months we look forward to releasing a wide array of options and applications kits to further enhance product capabilities."





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