February 1, 2011 (Vol. 31, No. 3)

In addition to the scientific presentations at the American Society for Cell Biology conference in Philadelphia, the exhibition floor featured a number of product offerings specifically designed for researchers studying the workings of the cell. For example, Roche Diagnostics previewed two new models of the xCELLigence System for automated dynamic monitoring of cellular processes at the recent ASCB annual meeting. The xCELLigence system allows for label-free real-time monitoring of cellular events by measuring electrical impedance across interdigitated microelectrodes integrated into the bottom of tissue culture E-Plates.

The RTCA HT system consists of the RTCA station, an RTCA HT analyzer that can connect to up to four 384-well plate stations, and a control unit. It can process one to four 384-well plates in parallel and integrates with third-party automation platforms.

Roche designed the xCELLigence RTCA Cardio Instrument for performing preclinical safety assessment of drug candidates using stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes. The system, together with the 96-well E-Plate Cardio, can detect cardiomyocyte contraction, providing measures of the rate and amplitude of cell beating as well as other parameters useful for assessing changes in cardiomyocyte function, viability, and morphology in response to the delivery of experimental drugs.

Roche also introduced the X-treme-GENE9 and X-tremeGENE HP DNA transfection reagents, the newest additions to its cellular-analysis product family.

The RTCA Cardio Instrument is the latest member of Roche’s xCELLigence product family. It is a medium-throughput cell analyzer that utilizes impedance readings to monitor cardiac beating and cellular events in real time.

The Olympus FSX100™ microscope now has an environmental control option to enable time-lapse imaging of live cells, with the addition of the Tokai Hit®  compact Stage Top Incubator. The incubator module provides temperature, humidity, and CO2 control and features a clear glass-heated top plate to prevent condensation. Users can select from control units that provide only temperature control, premixed 5% CO2, or integration with a digital gas mixer for 100% CO2 delivery. Olympus also featured its self-contained FV10i confocal-scanning microscope with darkroom capabilities.

Tokai Hit’s INU series of compact environmental chambers offer a range of adaptors to accommodate a 35 mm culture dish, a 50/60 mm dish, chamber slide, chambered cover glass, or slide glass. The company designed the Stage Heater to minimize anti-Z-axis drift and maintain optimal focus for confocal applications as well as time-lapse and long-term imaging experiments.

UVP introduced the new iBox Explorer fluorescence imaging microscope designed for preclinical in vivo imaging studies in small animals. Cancer-related applications include the study of tumor shedding and metastasis, primary tumor growth, angiogenesis, hematogenous trafficking, and interactions at tumor margins. The iBox Explorer detects fluorescent markers in the visible to near-infrared range. It includes configurable filters and generates a continuous excitation spectrum. The motorized stage repositions the animal across the X,Y, and Z axes. Motorized optics adjust the field of view to allow for imaging of whole organs down to single cells.

Thorlabs previewed a prototype of the MZS350 piezo-driven Z-axis scanning stage that will be available in spring 2011. It is capable of 350 µm of travel in the Z direction and allows for repeatable positioning for rescanning of a sample with a high degree of accuracy. Applicable for confocal microscopy and 3-D imaging, the MZS350 is compatible with the company’s MLS203 Series of XY stage systems.

Cellasic featured its Microfluidic 3D Culture Array (MiCA) technology, which allows for 3-D perfusion culture in a gel matrix in a 96-well format. Thirty-two independent flow units each contain a linked flow inlet well, a cell chamber, and an outlet well. The company designed the cell chamber to model the interstitial tissue environment. Cellasic’s Onix™ microfluidic plates and control system allow for long-term live-cell imaging by utilizing microfluidic technology to maintain favorable environmental conditions to support live-cell perfusion within each chamber.

A section of a 3×3 xyz montage taken using Olympus’ FV10i confocal system: The sample was a 16 micrometer section of mouse brain labeled for nuclei, neurofilaments, and astrocytes.

Keyence recently introduced its Biorevo all-in-one fluorescence microscope to the U.S. and European markets. The instrument’s built-in sample enclosure eliminates the need to perform experiments in a darkroom, and a modular temperature control chamber enhances live-cell imaging. The Biorevo includes a six-mount electronic revolver that can accommodate six objective lenses from 2X to 100X magnification. Users can switch between lenses and control all other microscope operations using software-driven menus on the computer screen and can use the mouse to focus and scan images.

Leica added adaptive focus control to its DM16000 inverted research microscope to enhance live-cell imaging. Users can identify multiple points on the viewing stage that the DM16000 B will maintain in the same focal plane, with automatic adjustment in case of drift.

SNAP-tag® technology for cellular imaging and analysis from New England Biolabs is a two-step protein-labeling system. The first step involves expression of a protein of interest as a SNAP-tag fusion. Next, the fusion complex is covalently linked to a fluorophor, biotin, or magnetic beads.

The Millicell® µ-Migration Assay Kit from EMD Millipore set to launch in February 2011, is a slide-based migration assay designed to measure the effects of up to three chemoattractants in parallel on the migration behavior (direction and velocity, for example) of adherent single cells. The µ-Migration slide establishes a linear concentration gradient across the observation window, which remains stable for up to 48 hours. Users can track real-time migration of single cells to study metastatic behavior or the effects of toxins.

GE Healthcare’s newest addition to the Amersham™ Enhanced Chemiluminescence (ECL) Western Blotting system is the ECL™ Prime chemiluminescent reagent. According to GE, ECL Prime is at least twice as sensitive as ECL Plus, with a limit of detection in the low pictogram range, allowing for quantitative results at higher antibody dilutions. The reagent also offers increased signal stability that does not fade over repeated exposures. ECL Prime is optimized for imaging with GE’s ImageQuant™ LAS 4000 CCD-based imager. GE also featured its new MAG Sepharose beads, with a size range of 37–100 µm for enhanced visibility and increased protein binding capacity of 18–27 mg/mL, designed for use with the Mag Rack.

New from Agilent Technologies—developed initially by the company’s electronics and measurement group for the aerospace and semiconductor industries—is the MLC400 monolithic laser combiner, applicable for fluorescence, confocal, and super-resolution microscopy. Based on monolithic optical technology, the MLC400 has a fixed mounting system that combines multiple laser beams into a single optical structure that is in alignment when delivered to a customer and never needs readjusting, according to Agilent.

The Automation Partnership (TAP) plans to launch the RAFT™ (Real Architecture for 3D Tissue) workstation in 2Q11. The system can produce 50–100 micrometer thickness single or multicellular 3-D tissue constructs from collagen (the main component of extracellular matrix) in less than one hour, according to TAP.

RAFT technology has the capability to form up to 24 tissue constructs simultaneously. It works by applying compression to a hydrogel comprised of collagen and cells, using absorbent plungers to pull out liquid, concentrating the collagen/cell mixture. Users can mold the cell constructs into desired shapes to mimic more closely natural tissue. TAP is working with University College London to use the RAFT system to produce cornea models for research use.

The Heliophor from 89 North is a pumped phosphor light engine designed to provide a stable source of UV-LED light at a wavelength range of 405–670 nm, covering most commonly used fluorochromes. Each unit can accommodate six light modules and features high-speed digital switching with 10 µsec rise and fall times. Sequential multicolor switching is triggered from the camera without the need for control through a host computer.

BD Biosciences launched the Horizon™ Violet Proliferation Dye (VPD450) for use in multicolor flow cytometry applications with GFP- or FITC-labeled cells. The dye contains both an esterase-cleavable and amine-reactive succinimidyl ester group. BD scientists presented a poster describing optimization of loading conditions when using the violet dye to study cell proliferation.

Li-Cor featured a variety of tools for small animal imaging, including the Pearl® Impulse near-infrared fluorescent detection small animal imaging system. The system incorporates FieldBrite™ Xi optical technology, can capture 700 nm, 800 nm, and white light images, and can detect two near-infrared probes simultaneously. It is designed for use with the company’s BrightSite™ optical probes.

The newest member of Li-Cor’s IRDye® family of infrared dyes is the 800CW HA (hyaluronic acid), for imaging the spread of tumor cells to the lymphatic system. Li-Cor also introduced the SmartFlow inhalation anesthesia system for small animal procedures.

Also new to the in vivo imaging arena is Carestream Molecular Imaging’s multimodal digital in vivo imaging systems for live animal imaging. The company’s Multimodal Animal Rotation System (MARS) automatically rotates a mouse to the required positions to ensure 360o coverage and capture of molecular and anatomical data. Multimodal capabilities include multi-wavelength fluorescence, luminescence, white light, and radioisotopic and x-ray imaging.

New from Caliper Life Sciences is the Quantum FX standalone microCT in vivo imaging system designed to facilitate longitudinal imaging studies. The 18-second scan time minimizes the x-ray radiation dose animals receive.

Berthold Technologies’ low-light imagers enable monitoring of gene expression and disease progression in living organisms. The company’s third-generation NightOWL II LB 983 imager contains a motor-driven CCD camera housed within the light-tight cabinet. A range of filters from 340nm to 1100nm enable luminescent and fluorescent signal detection, including BRET and FRET applications.

Testosterone in the testes of a mouse fetus as revealed with Keyence’s Biorevo fluorescence microscope: Red: testosterone; Blue:nucleus

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