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Revolutionizing High-content Imaging

April 04, 2017

Revolutionizing High-content Imaging

Bioscience Goes 3D

Think of it as the scientific version of virtual reality. Extensive visualization of 3D data sets of cancer cells are increasingly being cultivated in artificial environments where they are allowed to grow and interact with their surroundings in all three dimensions. Research labs cannot get enough of them. Why?

Unlike those two-dimensional cell cultures we all remember from high school biology, their 3D successors are, well, 3D, which means researchers can now create more physiologically relevant conditions than they could through biochemical assays and 2D cell cultures. In fact, the new 3D models more closely mimic the microenvironments, cell-to-cell interactions, and biological processes that actually occur in humans. As a result, scientists can better predict the effectiveness of different treatments at an earlier stage of the drug development process based on what they see.

Seeing Microtissues Up Close

How does that happen? New technologies such as PerkinElmer’s Operetta® CLS High Content Analysis System are capable of acquiring fluorescence and bright-field images in z-stacks from 3D cell samples. Using the Harmony® High Content Imaging and Analysis Software, the Operetta CLS system provides researchers with an intuitive interface, step-by-step approach to image acquisition and analysis. And near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent agents, such as ProSense® 680 or HypoxiSenseTM 680, which are traditionally used with in vivo imaging systems such as the PerkinElmer® IVIS® system can be used with high-content analysis platforms enabling, for example, the same tumor models to be investigated both in vitro with 3D cell cultures and as xenograft in vivo.

Okay, so how does that help come up with effective new treatments? Consider colon cancer, the subject of a study by PerkinElmer scientists using the Operetta system.1 Colon cancer affects some 200,000 new patients every year. If it happens to metastasize, the five-year survival rate for colon cancer is only about 11%, so the need for more effective treatments is real. In this study, high-content analysis of 3D cell cultures with in vivo NIR agents resulted in successful quantification of cancer biomarkers with physiologically relevant readouts that help to improve the predictive power of experiments early on in the drug discovery process. That means increased likelihood of treatments having a favorable effect in humans.

Brave New World

“High-content analysis of in vitro, NIR-labeled tissues allows scientists to successfully quantify disease-associated cancer biomarkers in microtissue,” Stefan Letzsch, Application Scientist at PerkinElmer, says. That’s important. “Automated confocal imaging of multicellular 3D on the Opera® Phenix and Operetta CLS platforms along with the intuitive image analysis of Harmony® software allows for a completely new generation of screening applications that are already helping to improve the predictive power of preclinical experiments.”

At PerkinElmer, more than 9,000 scientists and professionals around the globe work on innovations like this every day. In the fields of diagnostics, discovery, and analytical solutions PerkinElmer is focused on innovating for a healthier world.


  1. Marcel Waschow, Stefan Letzsch, Karin Boettcher, Jens Kelm, "High-Content Analysis Of Biomarker Intensity And Distribution In 3D Microtissues," PerkinElmer Application Note, in Nature Methods, September 2012, accessed February 22, 2017.

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