Automated cell imaging

One of the images in the Cell Atlas: EGFR
Martin Hjelmare, lab manager

Over the last couple of weeks, readers of this blog have learnt about how we culture cells, and how we prepare them for microscopy. This week, the time has come to look into the actual imaging.

Martin Hjelmare is lab manager in the Cell Profiling group, and has worked within the Human Protein Atlas since 2007, the first couple of years in the protein factory, and since 2008 in the Cell Profiling group.

– In the protein factory I learnt a lot about basic lab routines; up scaling of protein expression, coupling columns, running gels, etc. This was very useful when I started working in the group of Emma Lundberg.

In the Cell Profiling group, Martin has shifted to another side of the research: he works with the microscopes and the imaging of cells.

– I am interested in many things, so it was fun to get the opportunity to shift from the "wet" side of the lab, to the more technical, with microscopes and imaging.

After the cells have been grown in a Petri dish, they are moved to a 96-well plate with a glass bottom, where they are fixed and stained, in an optimized, automated process. To make also the microscopy efficient the group has developed an automated imaging procedure.

– We use software from Leica Microsystems that runs the microscope automatically. It controls the graphical interphase in the computer, but we can also program the software to do different things according to the image analysis, Martin explains.

After staining, the cells in the 96-well plate are put into the microscope, where the manual settings take about 30 minutes. Thereafter, the microscope takes images, evaluates them and takes new images with this information.

The automation process is always under optimization. Today it takes 24 hours to take images of a whole 96-well plate, but the group would like to speed that up, so that a plate can be imaged over night.

– I really enjoy problem solving, and using IT to do it is really interesting. I want to continue developing our software solutions, which hopefully will lead to an even more efficient imaging process, Martin Hjelmare concludes.

DonĀ“t miss the release of our new Cell Atlas, on December 4!

Frida Henningson Johnson