October 15, 2017 (Vol. 37, No. 18)

For Obtaining Better Cell-Culture Analyses

Lonza officials note that the CytoSMART 2 System can take time-lapse recordings without having to remove cultures from the incubator.

The CytoSMART™ 2 System, recently introduced by Lonza, is designed for bright-field live-cell imaging for applications such as general cell culture monitoring, documentation, and scratch/migration assays, which require a larger field of view. GEN recently spoke with Claudia Schwartz, product manager,
CytoSMART, to learn more about the product.

GEN: What’s different about the updated version compared with the first version?

Ms. Schwartz: The CytoSMART 2 Device features an advanced optical system and more powerful camera unit, which enables researchers to capture images of their cell cultures at a higher resolution, compared with the original CytoSMART System. Additionally, images taken can now be digitally enlarged two-fold to display more cellular detail for enhanced monitoring of cell cultures, migration assays, and differentiation experiments.

Data transfer from the CytoSMART to the cloud used to be transmitted via WiFi. CytoSMART 2 transfers data via WiFi or LAN transmission. Combined with its ability to operate offline and its flexibility in image recording and storage, the system seamlessly integrates with different network set-ups, providing a truly flexible solution to laboratories.

CytoSMART 2 is operated via a CytoSMART Tablet that can be controlled by either the on-screen keyboard or the new keyboard base attached to it. The keyboard lets scientists operate the CytoSMART 2 System in an environment where wearing gloves is mandatory. This update was made to better meet the needs of scientists in the laboratory.

GEN: How does the new system work?

Ms. Schwartz: CytoSMART 2 consists of a CytoSMART 2 Device and a tablet and keyboard. The device is placed in the incubator and operated via the tablet from the outside. Once CytoSMART 2 is connected to the CytoSMART Connect Cloud via WiFi or LAN transmission, recordings (referred to as CytoSMART Projects) can be started by entering project details, such as the user’s email address, experiment name, and recording interval.

Taken images are transmitted to the Cloud, where they are processed. When starting a project, the user immediately receives an email with the access link to view the data on the CytoSMART Connect Cloud via computer, tablet, or smart phone.

As soon as the user stops the project recording, all data can be downloaded from the CytoSMART Connect Project Page, such as images (.jpg files), time-lapse video (.avi files) or temperature and confluency data (.csv files for further processing in Excel). Alternatively, CytoSMART 2 can operate offline. In this case, recorded images are saved locally on the tablet.

GEN: What new possibilities does CytoSMART 2 open for researchers?

Ms. Schwartz: CytoSMART 2 is designed to support scientists with a range of applications. By doing this, the system benefits biopharmaceutical firms and academic researchers who are undertaking cell culture monitoring and cell culture standardization. The applications CytoSMART 2 is suited for are:

Video recording and documentation of migration assays. For example, scratch assays, tube formation assays, chemotaxis, and 3D-cell invasion assays. We have a white paper on the CytoSMART System and migration assays that provides a lot of useful information on this particular application.

Cell culture standardization by automatic confluency determination and alert functionality notifies scientists when cultures have reached a desired confluency without having to step into the laboratory. While not always easy to maintain, standardized cell culture is of great importance as the condition of a cell culture may have a significant influence on the downstream results obtained with the cultured cells.

One way to obtain a more standardized cell culture is to use cells for any downstream assay at consistent confluency. However, the determination of cell confluency is very user dependent. CytoSMART 2 overcomes the issue of biased determination of cell culture confluency in offering a user-independent analysis of the cell confluency, which is recorded in the CytoSMART Project.

Remote monitoring of precious cell cultures. CytoSMART 2 allows direct monitoring of cells without removing them from the incubator. Monitoring cell cultures outside of the lab can be done anytime and anywhere, via smart phone, tablet, or computer with the integrated cloud functionality. There is no need to remove the cultures from the incubator to monitor cell growth under a microscope, so the conditions the cells are subjected to do not suffer from variation. Images and videos, as well growth curves, can be saved locally for further processing.

Monitoring and documentation of cell cultures growing under hypoxic/normoxic conditions. Culturing of cells in a hypoxic environment has become increasingly important in today’s research, as this reflects the natural situation in the body. Cancer cells and (mesenchymal) stem cells are especially sensitive to the O2 level they are cultured in as this significantly influences their proliferation behavior and drug response. So, interruptions in the hypoxic conditions need to be kept as short as possible.

CytoSMART 2 allows direct monitoring of cells growing in an incubator with physiological oxygen levels without removing them from the incubator. Again, the cultures benefit from not having to be removed from the incubator to monitor cell growth under a microscope.

Monitoring and documentation of cell cultures growing under GMP conditions. Monitoring of cell cultures plays an important role in GMP or high biosafety level laboratories. Here, cell culture monitoring is very cumbersome. To help prevent contamination or to increase their safety, scientists have to wear extensive protective clothing, including overgown, booties, hairnet, beard cover, safety glasses, and gloves—which is time consuming to put on and expensive for the laboratory.

Monitoring cell cultures from outside the laboratory reduces the number of times scientists need to gown up, allowing them to dedicate more time to research. CytoSMART 2 eliminates the need for scientists to manually monitor cell cultures. The number of times the cell cultures need to be watched can be reduced to that required by the SOP of the GMP facility. If additional monitoring is required, this can be done with CytoSMART 2 and independent of any gowning.       

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