I’ve been working on a technique for producing time-lapse imagery of processes of cell culture with which I’ve been engaged for over a year. Above is a picture of the assembly which I hope will finally make this possible and
below is a link to the full protocol for making this work. I will be making a full Cell Culture Time Lapse Protocol available to download here once the system is has been tested and optimized.
I want the cell imagery to be strongly based on what I typically see through the microscope each day and, whilst it is quite simple to attach the digital slr camera to the microscopes in the tissue culture labs (using a cheap Nikon lens adapter I bought last year) the more difficult aspect is creating an environment to consistently photograph the cells whilst also reproducing the conditions in which the cells typically grow.
Below: an image of the mouse cells I’ve been growing in culture since I began my residency last August.
In order to sustain and grow animal cells in culture media in the laboratory they need to be kept in an incubation which is basically a very consistent, sanitized and humid environment providing a temperature of 37 degrees and also a CO2 level in the air inside which is consistently above 5%.
I can solve the temperature challenge fairly easily since there is a 37 degree hot-room onsite (pictured open below) which is used for running larger experiments requiring warmth, however, maintaining a consistent level of CO2 gas is more difficult. After several conversations, the solution I have gone for is to order a mixed gas canister (5% CO2 in air – also pictured) and to create a box which can contain the cells, microscope and photographic equipment and be filled with the mixed gas.
I was able to obtain a large old tank in the lab, which actually contains a gas regulation device and also inlets for gas and a power supply.
Unfortunately, even this tank was not quite large enough to house the microscope which I want to use, so I made it a new base, taking the height to 750mm. Below is photo of the microscope inside the housing – I’m doing some test with gas shortly and I’ll publish a full protocol for this as soon as the system is working. Any queries please use comments below!