Smartphone helps upgrade standard microscopes for low-cost live-cell imaging

Dec. 29, 2016
Upgrading standard inverted microscopes using a few 3D-printed parts, off-the-shelf electronics, and a smartphone enables low-cost, live-cell imaging.

A team of researchers at Uppsala University (Sweden) has shown how smartphones can be used to make movies of living cells, without the need for expensive equipment.

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Live-cell imaging allows researchers to learn how cells respond to different treatments such as drugs or toxins. However, microscopes and equipment for this type of imaging are often very expensive. Recognizing this, the research team's study involved upgrading old standard inverted microscopes that are very abundant at universities and hospitals to high-quality live imaging stations using a few 3D-printed parts, off-the-shelf electronics, and a smartphone. The researchers demonstrated that the upgraded systems provided excellent cell culture conditions and enabled high-resolution imaging of living cells.

3D printing has the potential to give researchers with limited funding access to research methods that were previously too expensive, says Johan Kreuger, senior lecturer at the Department of Medical Cell Biology at Uppsala University. The technology, he adds, can readily be adapted and modified according to the specific need of researchers, and at a low cost.

Full details of the work appear in the journal PLOS ONE; for more information, please visit

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