Technology advancements turn time-lapse video imaging into a routine tool for long-term cell culture analysis.

A diode laser. Semiconductor light sources allow modern microscopes to be built inexpensively and very compact.

With good reason, most cell biologist view time-lapse video micro­scopy as compli­cated to setup, difficult to keep cells alive and frustratingly time-con­suming just to render some pretty pictures, without any hard data. Never­theless, to understand a living system is to understand how the funda­mental building blocks of life interact over time to form the system at its present state.

A time-lapse image sequence of an un­stain­ed DU145 cell under­going apoptosis induced by etoposid. The images and the video clip were captured using Holo­Monitor.

Semiconductor revolution

Semiconductor technology has over the past decade ad­vanced to a point where it enables affordable time-lapse microscopes for routine use, without the issues commonly associated with conventional time-lapse microscopy.

  • State of the art digital image sensors are extremely light sensitive, reducing the amount of required light and consequently reducing the risk of photo­toxicity.
  • Semiconductor light sources dissipate very small amounts of heat, allowing time-lapse microscopes to be placed inside standard cell incubators.
  • Phase shift imaging techniques allow unstained cell populations to be imaged, tracked and automatically quantified for extended periods of time.
  • Microfluidic devices, adapted for microscopic observation, are rapidly becoming available to further enhance in vitro cell environment and push the limit of how long living cells can be kept for observation under the microscope.
  • The average computer hard disk has the capacity to store millions of images. This is sufficient storage capacity to record years of cellular dynamics with time-lapse microscopy.

Time-lapse cytometry

The HoloMonitor time-lapse cytometers utilize these technology advancements to allow time-lapse image sequences of cultured cells to be effortlessly recorded over long time periods. From recorded time-lapse sequences, the Holo­Monitor software aids the user to automatically extract individual cell data of a cell population. Individual cell data — cell count, cell morphology, cell velocity and cell division rate — can be used to achieve a range of applications, from a single time-lapse video recording.