A team of US investigators including experts from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) announces the development of a new system for monitoring thousands of living cells in real-time.
One of the most impressive features of the new technique is that it can capture the precise motion paths of thousands of fast-moving, microscopic objects, all in three dimensions. This enables biological studies at an unprecedented scale.
Details on the new observation method were published in the September 17 online issue of the esteemed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper reveals how the team tracked as many as 24,000 rapidly moving cells simultaneously.
Another interesting capability is that these cells can be tracked over relatively wide fields of view, as they move inside large sample volumes. Until now, other tracking methods could only survey cells contained within a relatively small volume of liquid.
Furthermore, researchers describe how all the 24,000 cells were tracked for as long as 20 seconds. “We can very precisely track the motion of small things, more than a thousand of them at the same time, in parallel,” says Aydogan Ozcan.
He holds an appointment as an electrical engineering and bioengineering professor at UCLA, and is a US National Science Foundation
(NSF) CAREER award recipient. Ozcan was the leader of the study.
“We were able to achieve sub-micron accuracy over a large volume, allowing us to understand, statistically, how thousands of objects move in different ways,” the investigator goes on to say.
He adds that the new, microscope-based technique is aided by an advanced algorithm, which can make out individual motions, revealing 3D data about how cells move within a liquid or solution.
The new monitoring technique could be used in pharmaceutical research, or for studying the impact of various chemicals on large cell populations. Additional applications in improving fertility treatments and drug development procedures are also possible.
“This latest study is an extension of truly novel and creative work. The holographic technique could accelerate drug discovery and prove valuable for monitoring pharmaceutical treatments of dangerous microbial diseases,” NSF biophotonics program officer, Leon Esterowitz, comments.