Understanding the mechanisms behind the proliferation of Mesenchymal Stem cells (MSCs) can offer a greater insight into the behaviour of these cells throughout their life cycles. Traditional methods of determining the rate of MSC differentiation rely on population based studies over an extended time period. However, such methods can be inadequate as they are unable to track cells as they interact; for example, in autologous cell therapies for osteoarthritis, the development of biological assays that could predict in vivo functional activity and biological action are particularly challenging. Here further research is required to determine non-histochemical biomarkers which provide correlations between cell survival and predictive functional outcome. This paper proposes using a (previously developed) advanced texture-based analysis algorithm to facilitate in vitro cells tracking using time-lapsed microscopy. The technique was adopted to monitor stem cells in the context of unlabelled, phase contrast imaging, with the goal of examining the cell to cell interactions in both monoculture and co-culture systems. The results obtained are analysed using established exploratory procedures developed for time series data and compared with the typical fluorescent-based approach of cell labelling. A review of the progress and the lessons learned are also presented.
A principal focus highlighting recent advances in cell based therapies concerns the development of effective treatments for osteoarthritis. Earlier clinicaltrials have shown that 80% of patients receiving mesenchymal stem cell(MSC) based treatment have improved their quality of life by alleviating pain whilst extending the life of their natural joints. The current challenge facing researchers is to identify the biological differences between the treatments that have worked and those which have shown little improvement. One possible candidate for the difference in treatment prognosis is an examination of the proliferation of the ( type) cells as they grow. To further understanding of the proliferation and differentiation of MSC, non-invasive live cell imaging techniques have been developed which capture important cell events and dynamics in cell divisions over an extended period of time. An automated image analysis procedure capable of tracking cell confluence over time has also been implemented, providing an objective and realistic estimation of cell growth within continuous live cell cultures. The proposed algorithm accounts for the halo artefacts that occur in phase microscopy. In addition to a favourable run-time performance, the method was also validated using continuous live MSC cultures, with consistent and meaningful results.
Within the field of tissue engineering there is an emphasis on studying 3-D live tissue structures. Consequently, to investigate and identify cellular activities and phenotypes in a 3-D environment for all in vitro experiments, including shape, migration/proliferation and axon projection, it is necessary to adopt an optical imaging system that enables monitoring 3-D cellular activities and morphology through the thickness of the construct for an extended culture period without cell labeling. This paper describes a new 3-D tracking algorithm developed for Cell-IQ®, an automated cell imaging platform, which has been equipped with an environmental chamber optimized to enable capturing time-lapse sequences of live cell images over a long-term period without cell labeling. As an integral part of the algorithm, a novel auto-focusing procedure was developed for phase contrast microscopy equipped with 20x and 40x objectives, to provide a more accurate estimation of cell growth/trajectories by allowing 3-D voxels to be computed at high spatiotemporal resolution and cell density. A pilot study was carried out in a phantom system consisting of horizontally aligned nanofiber layers (with precise spacing between them), to mimic features well exemplified in cellular activities of neuronal growth in a 3-D environment. This was followed by detailed investigations concerning axonal projections and dendritic circuitry formation in a 3-D tissue engineering construct. Preliminary work on primary animal neuronal cells in response to chemoattractant and topographic cue within the scaffolds has produced encouraging results.