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Live cell imaging has transformed the way biologists study cells, proteins and a variety of processes and molecular interactions. Live cell imaging techniques allow the observation of internal structures and cellular processes in real time, and across time. Understanding cellular structures and dynamic processes can be critical in the study of cell biology. The observation of dynamic changes provides more insight into the processes of a cell, as compared to a snapshot provided by imaging studies of fixed cells. Since live cell imaging is less prone to experimental artifacts, it usually provides more reliable and relevant information than does fixed cell microscopy.
Live-cell imaging can be challenging. Labeling with fluorescent probes needs to be optimized for the particular assay readout, spectral compatibility and signal-to-noise level, and live-cell imaging of dynamic processes requires active observation over time. For reliable imaging results with live cells, it is recommended that the cells be healthy and maintained as closely as possible to physiological temperature, pH, oxygen tension, and other conditions. The use of an onstage incubator, an environmental chamber to enable control of temperature, humidity, and gases for time-lapse imaging of live cells under both physiological and non-physiological conditions, can be very useful in live cell imaging.