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Lab Chip. 2012 Oct 21;12(20):3976-82.

A mini-microscope for in situ monitoring of cells.

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  • 1Center for Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


A mini-microscope was developed for in situ monitoring of cells by modifying off-the-shelf components of a commercial webcam. The mini-microscope consists of a CMOS imaging module, a small plastic lens and a white LED illumination source. The CMOS imaging module was connected to a laptop computer through a USB port for image acquisition and analysis. Due to its compact size, 8 × 10 × 9 cm, the present microscope is portable and can easily fit inside a conventional incubator, and enables real-time monitoring of cellular behaviour. Moreover, the mini-microscope can be used for imaging cells in conventional cell culture flasks, such as Petri dishes and multi-well plates. To demonstrate the operation of the mini-microscope, we monitored the cellular migration of mouse 3T3 fibroblasts in a scratch assay in medium containing three different concentrations of fetal bovine serum (5, 10, and 20%) and demonstrated differential responses depending on serum levels. In addition, we seeded embryonic stem cells inside poly(ethylene glycol) microwells and monitored the formation of stem cell aggregates in real time using the mini-microscope. Furthermore, we also combined a lab-on-a-chip microfluidic device for microdroplet generation and analysis with the mini-microscope and observed the formation of droplets under different flow conditions. Given its cost effectiveness, robust imaging and portability, the presented platform may be useful for a range of applications for real-time cellular imaging using lab-on-a-chip devices at low cost.

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