Live Cell Imaging Techniques | PerkinElmer
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Live Cell Imaging

Live Cell Imaging technologies

Live cell imaging is the study of living cells using images acquired from imaging systems such as microscopes and high content screening systems. It is used by scientists to give a better view of biological function through the study of cellular dynamics. In recent years, this technology has become widely accessible and there is an increasing number of leading research biologists using live-cell imaging techniques to produce pivotal publications in a wide range of research areas.

Live cell imaging is becoming a requisite technique for cell biology, developmental biology, cancer biology, and many other related biomedical research laboratories.

Challenges of Live Cell Imaging

A major challenge of live cell imaging is keeping cells alive and functioning as naturally as possible for the duration of the experiment. Fluorescence illumination, especially in the UV range, is harmful for cells and causes photobleaching and phototoxicity. The use of high power lasers as the excitation source adds to this challenge. Successful experiments must be designed to minimize specimen illumination whilst maintaining the environment.

In addition, some cell types such as cultured cells require incubation during the experiment. Careful control of temperature and CO2 concentration within the incubation chamber allow cells to be cultured in HCS instruments with minimum disruption.

With well-designed systems, live cell assay allows research biologists and drug discovery scientists to discover more, achieve greater understanding and provides the confidence and reassurance that their results are true to life.

Solutions for Live Cell Assays

For HCS applications, the Opera Phenix™ High Content Screening System and the Operetta CLS™ High Content Analysis System both have options for live cell imaging enabling you to bring live cell imaging to HCS applications. Brightfield and digital phase imaging also enable gentle and label-free live cell analysis.


Live cell imaging of HeLa cells expressing a GFP-tagged cameloid small antibody fragment (Chromobody) against a cell cycle clock protein. The protein of interest was followed in live cells for over 22 hrs, with images acquired every 30 min. Data was acquired using the Opera High Content Screening System in collaboration with ChromoTek and LMU Munich (Dr. Rothbauer).

Sample Protection

The Opera Phenix™ High Content Screening System and the Operetta CLS™ High Content Analysis System can be integrated with our environmental control solutions and benefit from spinning disk technology which minimises photobleaching and phototoxicity. To analyze live cells without any fluorescent dye labels, you can choose to use the digital-phase contrast imaging mode.

Fast Acquisition

Both Operetta CLS™ and Opera Phenix™ carefully synchronize the scanning disk speed, camera acquisition, laser illumination (protecting cells from illumination during camera readout) and z-position so that the highest acquisition rates can be achieved with superb image quality.

High performance sCMOS cameras offer high resolution and high sensitivity and allow the fast acquisition speeds so are the optimum choice for your high speed, 3D live cell experiments.

The Opera Phenix™ HCS system uses proprietary microlens-enhanced spinning disk confocal Synchrony Optics™ which reduce spectral crosstalk to a minimum so that you can scan multicolour HCS experiments faster than ever before — without compromising sensitivity.


Tracking is a highly important technique that requires the identification of an object so that its movement over time can be measured. Harmony can now accurately track not only an object’s movement but also changes in shape and fluorescent content which is particularly important for measuring the growth of tumours and in related cancer research applications. Thanks to digital phase imaging even unlabelled cells can be tracked.

Being able to track changing objects accurately means that more complex, dynamic, cell activity can be measured.

One Source Acquisition and Analysis

Opera Phenix™ and Operetta CLS™ provide complete solutions for acquiring and analyzing live cell assays with the ability to track cells and follow phenotypic changes over time.

Related Application Notes and Publications

Application Note: A Multiparametric Live Cell Cytotoxicity Analysis using the Operetta High-Content Imaging System

For Research Use Only. Not for Use in Diagnostic Procedures.