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Sci Rep. 2018 Jul 24;8(1):11135. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-29169-0.

A high-throughput imaging and nuclear segmentation analysis protocol for cleared 3D culture models.

Author information

1
Division of Preclinical Innovation, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health, 9800 Medical Center Drive, Building B, Rockville, Maryland, 20850, USA. molly.boutin@nih.gov.
2
Division of Preclinical Innovation, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health, 9800 Medical Center Drive, Building B, Rockville, Maryland, 20850, USA.

Abstract

Imaging and subsequent segmentation analysis in three-dimensional (3D) culture models are complicated by the light scattering that occurs when collecting fluorescent signal through multiple cell and extracellular matrix layers. For 3D cell culture models to be usable for drug discovery, effective and efficient imaging and analysis protocols need to be developed that enable high-throughput data acquisition and quantitative analysis of fluorescent signal. Here we report the first high-throughput protocol for optical clearing of spheroids, fluorescent high-content confocal imaging, 3D nuclear segmentation, and post-segmentation analysis. We demonstrate nuclear segmentation in multiple cell types, with accurate identification of fluorescently-labeled subpopulations, and develop a metric to assess the ability of clearing to improve nuclear segmentation deep within the tissue. Ultimately this analysis pipeline allows for previously unattainable segmentation throughput of 3D culture models due to increased sample clarity and optimized batch-processing analysis.

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