Limitations of Static Imaging

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Live cell imaging has not always been accepted as key to understanding biological processes. Much like the introduction of the first moving pictures, and then talking pictures, technical challenges and costs of novel technology slowed adoption.
  • Why invest in live cell analysis when there is steady advancement in the vast amount of pathological data and publications obtained from fixed cell and tissue protocols?
  • Would live cell analysis upset the status quo in cell and tissue research?
  • Will we learn something new and critically insightful that was not exposed in static analysis?
Static images from IHC demonstrate cells caught in a moment in time.
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It seems clear that dynamic live cell analysis gives information not possible with static analysis. However, it will not replace static analysis, which will remain very useful (examples above with immunostaining). The combination of the two approaches gives the best power to answer complex scientific questions. Analysis of biological systems dynamically is becoming increasing accepted and used by the research and medical community because:
  • There is a clear need for more “realistic”, “predictive” cell culture that more closely mimics in vivo conditions.
  • There is a clear need for more sophisticated live cell assays for pharmaceutical research and screening
  • There is a clear need for better understanding and control of cellular microenvironments.
  • There is clear evidence that epigenetic and other post-translational genomic regulation is dynamic and influenced by the cell and tissue environments. 
  • There is increased awareness of the importance of tracking time-based mechanistic cellular changes including translation and trafficking. 
  • There have recently been significant advances in live cell culture technologies, protocols, and analysis that allowing a more complete understanding of how functional cells and tissues develop.
See how CellASIC microfluidic cell culture addresses these needs.

“Unless you can actually watch everything that is happening from the first cell up to the developing progeny, you have no idea how [cell development] actually plays out,” - Michel Cayouette, a developmental neurobiologist at the Clinical Research Institute of Montréal, Canada, whose work has revealed a way to predict how retinal progenitor cells divide, information that could help to produce cells for treating blindness.

Read a longer discussion on this in Baker’s Nature paper: Cellular imaging: Taking a long hard look


Imagine learning about a sports game by only knowing the final scores. What would you know about the dynamics of play and interaction of players in a soccer / football match just by reviewing some statistic collected at the end or at a single point during the match?

What information and insights are gained by continuous analysis of the live event? Live cell analysis makes it possible to begin to understand the dynamic “play” in living processes. Many key research areas today are benefiting from the jump from static end-point analysis to dynamic investigations including:
  • Primary cell & stem culture
  • Wound repair and healing
  • Host pathogen interactions
  • 3D cell culture optimization & culture
  • Cell migration and invasion
  • Cellular endocytosis and exocytosis
  • Cellular autophagy and mitophagy
  • Microvesicle and exosome analysis
  • Cell cycle control and cell division
  • Cell development or differentiation
  • Protein translocation
  • Cell health, apoptosis, stress response
  • Cell toxicology / ADME studies
  • Cell growth comparisons, interactions
  • Cancer cell behavior analysis
  • Assay development