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Moving Life Science Research Out of the Dark

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 9:51am
Lindsay Hock

Olympus FV10iWhen using a fluorescence imaging microscope, a staple for life science research, researchers usually have to invest in dark rooms that “are a huge expense and take up a lot of precious real estate within laboratory settings,” states Mark Clymer, product manager at Olympus America, Center Valley, Pa. Knowing that researchers’ time is precious, as well as the space they work in, Olympus created the FSX100 and the FluoView FV10i microscopes, that allow researchers to actually save space in laboratories and remove the need for dark rooms for fluorescence imaging experiments.

The FSX100 is an all-in-one brightfield and fluorescence microscope and camera system. Suitable for snapping images of specimens that have been stained with either brightfield stains like “H&E for tissue sections typical in pathology or Giemsa stain for microbiological applications,” says Clymer. This instrument can also be used for imaging specimens stained with fluorescent dyes like fluoroscein and rhodamine, and snapping images using phase contrast for cells that are not stained as in living cultures.

The FluoView FV10i is a self-contained, laser scanning confocal microscope that can “generate high resolution confocal fluorescence images in minutes,” claims Clymer. The product has four diode lasers and all the hardware, except for a PC and small control box, fits neatly inside the compact package. Being a little bigger than the size of a bread box, the FV10i fits easily on the benchtop and comes in two different flavors: oil immersion for fixed specimens and water immersion for researchers interested in live cell imaging.

Highly attractive for drug discovery by the pharmaceutical industry, both of these microscopes are self-contained allowing researchers to close the front cover, then image their specimen in the lab with the lights on. “By integrating all of the microscope components into a box, Olympus affords researchers greater convenience to do their microscope imaging where they want to, saving time and expense in modifying rooms for microscope imaging or moving to an imaging room everytime they want to capture an image,” says Clymer. However, not only are they a cost-effective investment due to the ridding of dark rooms and combining the microscope hardware into one common instrument, but they also reduce the amount of maintenance that is necessary to keep the microscope in operating condition.

Olympus FSX100The microscopes apply logical workflows with their software, which allow researchers to capture images easily so they can spend less time playing with the microscope and more time moving forward with their initial research. However, not only are these microscopes used by the pharmaceutical industry, but they are also of interest to university labs because of their compact size. The FSX100 and FV10i also appeal as shared microscopes, allowing multiple researchers to use them with little training or experience necessary.

However, reducing the size of these microscopes was “not an easy matter,” according to Clymer. Typical fluorescence microscopes are very tall and tend to have attachments and accessories hanging off the sides. Cables and wires typically snake across and beneath the bench, reducing room for the researcher and their research. “What we have done at Olympus is taken complete microscopes, their components and cables, and tried to simplify them into one very clean design,” states Clymer. Speaking to miniaturization, the design allowed engineers to remove some of components, housings, and frames, basically taking the guts out of a floor-standing fluorescence microscope and putting them into a bench-top sized box. By doing this, Olympus was also able to reduce the energy consumption as compared to comparably-equipped traditional microscope systems.

The instruments also differ from typical fluorescent microscopes by having a strikingly different appearance. Both instruments lack eyepieces, and they use a computer to do all the system control and imaging. Maintaining the same resolution as traditional microscopes, Olympus did not compromise the quality of the images obtained by the microscopes even given their benchtop size.

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