1st Prize – Team 10: Miniature Cell Culture Incubator with Live Cell Imaging for Microscopes
Sponsored by- University of Connecticut
Sponsor Advisor – Dr. Kazunori Hoshino
Team: Casey Settle, Alyssa Merkle and Kim Curran
Faculty Advisor – same as Sponsor Advisor
Cell cultures are vital to the medical world. They are used for testing and growing cells under controlled conditions that mimic their natural environment. Cells commonly need to be viewed live under a light or inverted microscope for analysis of growth, cell counts, differentiation, and a multitude of other observations. Mammalian cells require environmental temperature, carbon dioxide level, and media components to be maintained. Because cells need to be kept in very specific conditions, viewing them under a microscope live can be done only for a limited time without causing changes to their natural behavior or cell death. The current option for long-term live cell imaging is to use a camera-equipped microscope with an enclosed stage that keeps the temperature and carbon dioxide levels regulated. Although these microscopes do provide both a hospitable environment for cells and good imaging options, they are extraordinarily expensive and not readily available in most labs.
The purpose of this project was to create an inverted microscope stage-top incubator for use with cell culture studies. The device regulates the carbon dioxide and temperature levels around a petri dish or microchip. This will provide a suitable environment for long term live cell imaging on an inverted microscope. Specifically, the device consists of an open platform that has interchangeable slots for both petri dishes and glass slides encased in a chamber. The temperature is regulated by a temperature sensor controlled by an Arduino platform. A fan is placed outside the case to circulate airflow and ensure consistent heating throughout. The carbon dioxide is regulated with a valve that is opened and closed automatically by digital logic gates controlled by a sensor within the case. The entire casing is about 5.950 in. by 6.875 in.by 0.820 in. so that it can easily fit on the stage of an inverted microscope. This small encasing will provide a convenient and cost efficient way to keep cells thriving through the imaging process with commonly used microscopes that are already available in most labs