Cellular espionage in the tissue culture lab

First published on UiB.no May 23, 2019.

As the first lab in Norway, the Arnesen lab recently installed a HoloMonitor system from Phase Holographic Imaging for 3D live cell microscopy. This novel instrument allows us to spy on the cells in a gentle and non-invasive way.

Researcher Henriette Aksnes and Master student Tobias B. Beigl are pioneers exploring the possibilities of the new imaging system for their research on protein N-terminal acetylation in the Arnesen Lab.

The output of the HoloMonitor are phase-holographic images. These are different from regular phase contrast images as the microscope detects the surface of cells and produces a hologram. These images therefore have three-dimensional information on the cell structure, which provides valuable research data. The 3D aspect is nicely visualized by colour-coding.

HoloMonitor-pioneer Tobias B. Beigl analyzing data in the accompanying software. Tobias is using the instrument for his master’s project as well as finalizing data for a paper together with supervisor Henriette Aksnes and bachelor students Emilie Seljeseth and Ine Kjosås.    Photo: Monica Hellesvik

HoloMonitor-pioneer Tobias B. Beigl analyzing data in the accompanying software. Tobias is using the instrument for his master’s project as well as finalizing data for a paper together with supervisor Henriette Aksnes and bachelor students Emilie Seljeseth and Ine Kjosås.

Photo: Monica Hellesvik

The colourful 3D images and time-lapse videos of living cells are not only beautiful to look at”, says Tobias, “By analyzing the images we can quantify several different cellular parameters like cell size, proliferation or migration”.

Tobias is currently using the HoloMonitor for his master project where he wants to demonstrate some basal differences between two otherwise very similar cell types.

The HoloMonitor is a very nice complement to the other microscopes, like the Leica SP8 STED and the Dragonfly spinning disk at the Molecular Imaging Center MIC, which we rather use for high-resolution imaging of fluorescently stained and fixed cells”, says Tobias.

Monitoring cells during their life in the culture dish reveals important characteristics of cell behavior and structure. Analyzing cell growth, cell division events or cell movement are just a few examples of the possible applications that can be easily evaluated with a software especially developed for the HoloMonitor system.

This neat microscope fits inside a regular cell incubator and monitors the cells during cultivation. It produces a 3D video of cell structure and behaviour.    Photo: Phase Holographic Imaging AB

This neat microscope fits inside a regular cell incubator and monitors the cells during cultivation. It produces a 3D video of cell structure and behaviour.

Photo: Phase Holographic Imaging AB

Dividing cells. By means of its constant monitoring of cell volume, the HoloMonitor can automatically detect cell division events as these entail a sudden drop in cell volume of ~50%.    Photo: Tobias Beigl

Dividing cells. By means of its constant monitoring of cell volume, the HoloMonitor can automatically detect cell division events as these entail a sudden drop in cell volume of ~50%.

Photo: Tobias Beigl

Migrating cells. An exemplary image showing how the HoloMonitor can be used to track the migration paths of cells. The path traveled by each cell is registered (represented by coloured line). The explanatory figure to the left shows how the trajectory of each cell can be overlayed in an x/y-position plot, called rose plot. The resulting “rose” is bigger for NAA80 knockout cells (right) as these cells migrate longer during the given timeframe compared to control cells (middle). This image is published in    Communicative and Integrative Biology 2018     Photo: Henriette Aksnes

Migrating cells. An exemplary image showing how the HoloMonitor can be used to track the migration paths of cells. The path traveled by each cell is registered (represented by coloured line). The explanatory figure to the left shows how the trajectory of each cell can be overlayed in an x/y-position plot, called rose plot. The resulting “rose” is bigger for NAA80 knockout cells (right) as these cells migrate longer during the given timeframe compared to control cells (middle). This image is published in Communicative and Integrative Biology 2018

Photo: Henriette Aksnes

The first data obtained with the HoloMonitor have already been published. Henriette tracked single cells to show that absence of NAA80 causes cells to have an increased intrinsic capacity to move and also to migrate with a higher velocity. See the research paper here and an exemplary video: 

These days, the HoloMonitor is running with cell culture samples prepared by master student Monica Hellesvik. Monica takes the NAA80 migration phenotype into a cancer perspective. She investigates whether these cells also have an increased invasive or metastatic capacity.