Maintaining Live Cells on the Microscope Stage

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Tony Rook
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Maintaining Live Cells on the Microscope Stage

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Maintaining Live Cells on the Microscope Stage

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An increasing number of investigations are using live-cell imaging techniques to provide critical insight into the fundamental nature of cellular and tissue function, especially due to the rapid advances that are currently being witnessed in fluorescent protein and synthetic fluorophore technology. Because of these advances, live-cell imaging has become a requisite analytical tool in most cell biology laboratories, as well as a routine methodology that is practiced in the wide ranging fields of neurobiology, developmental biology, pharmacology, and many other related biomedical research disciplines. Among the most significant technical challenges for performing successful live-cell imaging experiments is to maintain the cells in a healthy state and functioning normally on the microscope stage while being illuminated in the presence of synthetic fluorophores and/or fluorescent proteins.

Tight control of the environment is one of the most critical factors in successful live-cell imaging experiments. In particular, the conditions under which cells are maintained on the microscope stage, although widely variable in many requirements depending upon the organism, often dictate the success or failure of an experiment. Aspects of the environment that are readily manipulated include the physical parameters of the chamber in which the cells are grown and imaged, the localized degree of temperature control, atmospheric conditions (gas mixture and humidity), nutritional supplements, growth medium buffering (pH), and osmolarity of the culture medium.