What is live cell imaging?
Benefits of live cell research
Live cell imaging is a fundamental research tool in cell biology labs and in a wide variety of industries, and it has led to the discovery of drug targets and candidates as well as the molecular mechanisms involved in diseases. Critical for these researchers, is the ability to develop assays that can best mimic the in vivo nature of cells. Benefits of imaging live cells include:
- Monitoring live cells over time provides more than a snapshot of what is occurring in the cells while allowing for the visualization of transient events that may be missed in end-point assays and revealing optimal time-points for end-point assays.
- Tight regulation of environmental conditions ensures that the cellular structures and processes being studied are in their native physiological state
- Imaging live cells in their natural state minimizes artifacts that can arise from other imaging techniques, such as cell fixation and immunostaining.
- The localization and transport of cellular biomolecules along with the progression of multiple pathways can be investigated simultaneously in real-time.
- Acquiring images laterally, axially, and temporally enables the generation of 4D images and data
- Live cell imaging of molecular dynamics generates qualitative and quantitative data that can’t be gained from other biochemical methods.
Cellular imaging and analysis workflow
Protocols for culturing, plating, and maintaining live cells will vary between different cell models however, the steps below outlines a generalized workflow for live cell assays.
- Plate cells into labware of choice (chamber slides, dishes, microplates)
- Treat cells – Perform cell treatments with desired compounds, RNAi, etc. if part of the assay workflow.
- Stain for markers – If required, label cells with the desired fluorophores (fluorescent dyes, fluorescent protein – peptide fusions, etc.
- Environmental controls – If the acquisition will take a long time or if the assay is a live cell time-lapse experiment (continuous or discontinuous), then enable full environmental control including gas, temperature, and humidity.
- Acquire cell image – Place the plate into the automated imaging system and start acquiring your live cell images
- Analyze cell image – Use cellular imaging analysis software to run quantitative analysis of live cell images
Live cell imaging system
Sophisticated live cell imaging systems provide the ability to regulate environmental conditions to maintain the health and viability of cells while monitoring molecular and cellular dynamics from the single cell to organismal level. From the study of fast-kinetic events to running long-term, time-lapse assays, automated live cell imaging provides the direct observation of dynamic biological processes and the ability to generate a wealth of cellular information
- Label-free, brightfield imaging to multi-color fluorescence imaging capabilities provide the flexibility necessary for the multitude of live cell imaging applications
- High-acquisition speeds allow for the examination of fast-kinetic events, such as calcium oscillation in cardiomyocytes.
- Robust focusing capabilities of automated live cell imaging instruments ensure the maintenance of optimum focus through the entirety of the acquisition, which is crucial for generating accurate live cell imaging data.
Applications and assays
Advancements in automated microscopes with integrated environmental control chambers as well as in fluorescent protein and synthetic fluorophore technology have expanded the capabilities of researchers investigating biological processes in living cells.
Our systems for high-content imaging and analysis provide flexible scalability making it easy to evolve your system alongside your research. They feature options and modules to address your specific research needs including objectives, filters, imaging modes, and environmental control. Here we have a collection of applications and assays that utilize these key features for your live cell imaging research:
Live Cell Imaging and Analysis Workflow
The described live cell imaging workflow is a generalized example of a continuous long-term time-lapse live cell assay. This workflow breaks down the steps from cell plating to image analysis and highlights the materials and instrumentation necessary to run a live cell assay including an automated high-content imaging system and cellular imaging and analysis software.