Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cell Imaging Made Easy

Cytation 3Cytation 3 is BioTek's newest detection instrument: a combined automated fluorescence / brightfield microscope and microplate reader. Having been involved with the development of Cytation 3 from the start, it's hard to offer an unbiased opinion as to what this instrument offers to the life science researcher. Instead, my comments are based on feedback from customers about how the instrument is used and which problems can be solved with this new system.

With the expansion of cell biology research, new tools have been necessary to support these efforts, and Cytation 3 is one of these important new tools. There is a lot of complexity tied to cellular research, and with the Cytation 3, one goal was to reduce this complexity. Cytation 3 has an automated microscope that allows researchers to run many cellular experiments at the same time, but doesn’t require in-depth hardware or software expertise to operate. The feedback so far indicates that we’ve met that goal. With a minimum amount of training, you can go from the packaged instrument to viewing your first image in about 30 minutes. If you have experience with automated microscopy, you will probably know that this timing would be hard to beat.

On the hardware side, Cytation 3 was designed to make the tasks of automated imaging as easy as possible.  Those of us with an interest in photography will recall what it took to use a good camera two or three decades ago. You had to understand the concepts of shutter speed, exposure time, film sensitivity, lens parameters, f-stops… and the impact of each on image resolution or depth of field.  Remember the days when camera flash bulbs where disposable?  Today, unless you have very specific needs, the camera automatically sets all of the parameters for you, and uses a bright flash light source that lasts forever. Cytation 3 was designed to behave like a modern camera:  unless you want manual control, settings like focus, LED intensity, camera gain and exposure time are all completely automated. The main benefit is that the biologist can then focus (no pun intended) on the cell biology, rather than spending valuable time becoming a camera and optics expert. 

On the software side, we kept it simple, too.  Mastering new software to perform advanced analysis can be interesting, but it can also become a bottleneck that slows down the entire research process. The Cytation 3 image analysis software is designed to perform common analysis such as cell counting or sub-population analysis on hundreds of samples at once, with just a few clicks. This software is a platform on which more image analysis tools can be added in the future while retaining the principle of “keeping it simple”, so that valuable lab time is spent on what matters - understanding what is happening in the cells.

So if you work with cells, and are looking for ways to  increase the number of experiments you run per day, without first having to master optics, electronics and image analysis, Cytation 3 was designed for you!

By: BioTek Instruments, Xavier Amouretti, Manager, Product Marketing

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