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This article was written on 09 Jul 2012, and is filled under 2012, Lab, News, Notes, time lapse.

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Cell Time-Lapse Imagery Environment

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!

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