Innovations in live-cell imaging are reshaping scientific paradigms, opening the door to new approaches for scientific inquiry and opportunities for predictive modeling. Emerging technologies allow more in-depth molecular and cellular data collection from living cells and tissues.
Technology advances bring new sets of challenges, including the development of stable processing environments, and analyses of vast quantities of data in robust, transferable methodologies. Live-cell imaging was one of the many technology topics discussed at CHI’s High-Content Analysis conference.
Ammasi Periasamy, Ph.D., professor of biology and director, W.M. Keck Center for Cellular Imaging, University of Virginia, discussed what he called the “fundamentally important role” that technology development plays in the advancement of live-cell imaging.
“Gene chips, high-throughput sequencing, and real-time manipulation of macromolecules in living cells have allowed scientists to observe and understand the central dogma that constitute cellular life,” Dr. Periasamy said.
“Super-resolution techniques have demonstrated that the wavelength of light does not have to ultimately define the spatial resolution, and 3D localization has been demonstrated, within limited volumes, in super-resolution technology,” he added.
Further, Dr. Periasamy said that “improvements of key fluorophore properties, particularly greater photostability, larger Stokes shifts, and smaller sizes, will help to improve current probe designs, which will expand the design space to create a new generation of smart probes. Phytochrome, phototropin, and light-sensitive ion channels derived from bacteria will be used to create tools for live-cell imaging and optogenetics in the near-term future.”
However, despite technological developments, even when high-quality image data are collected, the analysis required to obtain robust quantitative information is extremely challenging, as is the assessment of image segmentation and tracking software accuracy, as well as the analysis of very large datasets.
This is an exciting time for biology, according to Anne Plant, Ph.D., chief, biosystems and biomaterials division, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). “Technology has evolved to where we can now probe large numbers of individual cells in the time domain by light microscopy. This capability provides insight into the statistical details of population dynamics, and tells us about the forces that constrain cell response within an environment.