CELL BIOLOGY/IMAGING/ANALYSIS: Higher throughput and lower cost were themes at Cell Bio 2012

The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)'s annual meeting ("Cell Bio"; December 15-19, 2012, San Francisco, CA), had a lot to give to its some-7,000 attendees through its exhibition, symposia, and poster presentations. Among the holiday gifts were plenty of bio-optics and biophotonics innovations.

As part of the conference, Eva Schmid, a postdoctoral fellow in bioengineering at the University of California-Berkeley, gave a talk about her contribution to the trend of fitting smartphones with optics: Schmid's CellScope uses a smartphone/tablet of any platform, two mirrors, and an interchangeable magnifying objective (her demo unit used one from Edmund Optics) for focusing. Schmid and her colleagues are working with the San Francisco Friends School to test the device's utility through the "Micro:Macro" project, which challenges middle-schoolers to take macro/microscopic images. The captured images, Schmid says, were displayed in real time on the phone's touchscreen and could be viewed by multiple individuals at once to spark student/teacher discussion. The device's cost could be around $150 to produce once commercialized, and could also be used in clinics in developing countries.

Nikon Instruments' High Content Microscope system enables researchers to develop and run assays on one platform, even in the preclinical stage.

Show floor highlights

In the exhibit hall, Bio-Rad Laboratories (Hercules, CA) showed its S3 Cell Sorter, "the first truly walk-up automated cell sorter available," they claim, as scientists need minimal training to operate it. Equipped with one or two lasers and up to four fluorescence detectors, the benchtop system is ready to sort samples in less than 30 minutes for high-throughput applications such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and fluorescent cell imaging.

Scientific instrumentation maker FEI (Hillsboro, OR) launched a light/electron microscopy combo that enables scientists to see structural and functional relationships at various resolutions with unprecedented detail, says the company. The iCorr fluorescence microscope module, available as either an integrated component or an add-on module for the company's Tecnai transmission electron microscopes, delivers correlative results in minutes rather than hours or days, thanks to a white light-emitting diode (LED) source and image acquisition at 10 frames per second (fps).

Nikon Instruments (Melville, NY) unveiled its High Content Microscope system, which couples the company's Ti inverted microscope and NIS-Elements HC Software to allow scientists to develop and run assays on one platform from research through preclinical stages, says Ned Jastromb, senior product manager-Advanced Bio-Systems. To help overcome long-term focus drift in imaging, the Ti microscope features the company's Perfect Focus (PFS3) system, which uses a low-power infrared (IR) LED at 870 nm and an internal linear complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) detector to find the focal point without affecting fluorescence observation.

Thorlabs (Newton, NJ) recognizes that smaller laboratories may not be able to afford the larger microscopy systems and, to that end, chief technologist Ash Prabala explained that the TDI Microscope Imaging Kit adapts to any microscope or home-built imaging system. It costs $25,000 (compared to a whole microscopy system at $100,000), and features a scientific camera, a proprietary Time Delay Integration (TDI) engine, and a motorized scanning stage. The kit enables high-speed scanning at 20X magnification of whole slides measuring 15 × 15 mm in 90 seconds-a process that might normally take hours, he said.

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