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Biotechnol Prog. 2011 Jul;27(4):913-24. doi: 10.1002/btpr.629. Epub 2011 Jun 20.

Automated live cell imaging systems reveal dynamic cell behavior.

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  • 1Live Cell Imaging Lab, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA.


Automated time-lapsed microscopy provides unique research opportunities to visualize cells and subcellular components in experiments with time-dependent parameters. As accessibility to these systems is increasing, we review here their use in cell science with a focus on stem cell research. Although the use of time-lapsed imaging to answer biological questions dates back nearly 150 years, only recently have the use of an environmentally controlled chamber and robotic stage controllers allowed for high-throughput continuous imaging over long periods at the cell and subcellular levels. Numerous automated imaging systems are now available from both companies that specialize in live cell imaging and from major microscope manufacturers. We discuss the key components of robots used for time-lapsed live microscopic imaging, and the unique data that can be obtained from image analysis. We show how automated features enhance experimentation by providing examples of uniquely quantified proliferation and migration live cell imaging data. In addition to providing an efficient system that drastically reduces man-hours and consumes fewer laboratory resources, this technology greatly enhances cell science by providing a unique dataset of temporal changes in cell activity.

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