In this podcast, we talk with Susana Alcantara, Senior R&D Scientist and Neuroscience Program Leader, BioAnalytics, Sartorius about the ways real-time live cell analysis is enabling neuroscience research. We also discussed how real-time cell analysis can be used in neurological disease model development and in studying disease pathology to enable drug discovery.
I began the interview by asking Susana what she saw as the biggest challenges surrounding neuroscience research as it relates to cell monitoring and analysis. She explained that she saw the main challenges as being intrinsic to the type of research, specifically that the cells themselves are precious, difficult to obtain, costly and sensitive to handling. Researchers need to be able to sustain these cultures for long periods of time to analyze changes that occur, but common techniques use end point technologies and these aren’t able to capture changes in culture over time and they can introduce artifacts.
To overcome these challenges, researchers need to avoid unnecessary handling of cells and minimize plate movement thereby providing a stable environment. They also need robust assays to maximize data obtained within each culture, including multiplexing or miniturizing assays. Lastly the development of live cell kinetic approaches is needed to model and monitor these complex neural systems.
Next, we discussed the platform that Sartorius has developed to enable cell research. Susana explained that the IncuCyte™ live cell analysis system is an imaging and analysis platform designed to minimize cell disturbance. The camera is on a mobile optical train allowing the culture to remain stationary. Images are then segmented by software that allows quantification in real-time and permits non-invasive measurements. The IncuCyte is flexible and enables the study of many aspects of neuroscience research including cell health and function. Sartorius has created several turnkey solutions including reagents, protocols and advanced software to support researchers.
We then talked about the advantages of real-time analysis as it relates to neuroscience research. Susana described that the brain is a complex system and its function depends on dynamic interplay between cells. In neuroscience research you must be able to evaluate temporal changes to understand how the brain functions in healthy and disease states. Researchers can evaluate these developments via temporal changes monitored using live cell analysis. Another important capability is repeated measurements to capture significant and subtle changes. Being able to do this in real-time permits real-time decisions to be made. For example, researchers can have a better understanding of when the culture is ready to be treated and this can enable method optimization. In addition, when an experiment fails, you can go back to the images and can quantify them retrospectively to see what went wrong and why.
Next I asked Susana about the assays that Sartorius has developed to assist in neuroscience research and workflows. She explained how the IncuCyte provides flexible analysis of multiple cell types using a combination of applications that have been developed. There has been a plethora of real-time protocols to look at cell health, morphological changes, and cell function.These assays provide unprecedented access to cellular changes over time.
I then brought up a white paper that I had read on how real-time live cell analysis can be used in neurological disease model development and in studying disease pathology to enable drug discovery. Susana said that the white paper had great real life examples of the applications developed for the IncuCyte. The applications covered in the white paper fell into three areas of study: neurodynamics, neuronal action and neuroimmunology research.
Another area that I wanted to touch on was how live cell analysis can compliment other end point technologies currently being used in neuroscience research. She explained that because of the flexibility of the IncuCyte, it enables the use of multiple technologies to study progressive cellular changes including subtle and not so subtle changes over time. This permits identification of the optimal point to conduct a drug screen, for example, and then measure the neuronal activity to provide insight into changes in activity and changes post drug addition.
I closed the interview by asking Susana if she had anything else that she wanted to add for listeners. She shared that the goal of developing the IncuCyte was to give researchers tools and applications to answer their questions and give them the ability to make new scientific discoveries. The hope is to develop optimized models with increased translational value to target diseases of the nervous system and great scientific advancement. She said it is exciting to be at the forefront of scientific research especially in the field of neuroscience.
To learn more about the IncuCyte live cell analysis system, please see:
- Live-cell Analysis for Neuroscientists
- Unraveling the Complexities of Neurological Disease and Injury with Real-time Live-cell Analysis