Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cytation - the Sky’s the Limit. Literally.

Time is relative... no surprise there, thanks to Albert Einstein. And comparing time - on a scale as expansive as the Milky Way - to my relatively brief life on Earth makes me feel infinitely small. This feeling is magnified when I visually explore the starry skies. The distance and time between planets, stars and galaxies are mind-boggling.

As a kid, I always questioned: "How many stars are up there?"  I would start counting, reaching several hundred before inevitably giving up in defeat. On a recent work trip to Latin America, I once again considered this question as I enjoyed the night view of the Milky Way over the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica. There appeared to be thousands upon thousands of stars visible in the clear sky. If only I had a way to count them all...

As I sat there on my balcony, a thought hit me: maybe I could count all the stars using BioTek's Gen5 Image Analysis software, and FINALLY put to rest that question bugging me since childhood! After all, the stars looked VERY similar to how fluorescently labeled cell nuclei look when viewed with BioTek's Cytation Imaging Reader.

So I grabbed my trusty camera out of my luggage, propped it on the balcony ledge and snapped a 30 second long exposure... holding my breath in anticipation. Once the shutter clicked shut, I quickly checked my camera LCD and to my delight each star shone brightly, just like a DAPI-stained cell nucleus.


Opening my laptop, I swiftly downloaded the image and imported it into BioTek's Gen5 software. After just a few clicks of my mouse, I hit "Start" and to my surprise in only 300 ms I had the answer that had eluded me for so many years: 14,115 stars overhead... WOW! That would have taken me forever to count manually!


Maybe this hits home for some of you reading this... those of you still using a handheld clicker counter for counting cells under your microscope, click by click, minute by minute, hour by hour. Think about the hours of your life spent by not automating your image analysis. If Gen5 software can accurately count almost 50,000 stars per second, how much time would it save you in the lab by automating your microscopy and cell counting - which is what Gen5 software was optimized to do!? How much time would it save you? A day, a week, a month... a year?!

The next time you peer through your microscope and start clicking one by one through your cell count, I hope you remember Cytation and Gen5 software. When it comes to challenging applications, Cytation loves stepping up - and the sky’s the limit. Literally!

By: BioTek Instruments, Caleb Foster, Product Manager, Development

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