Advanced 3D cell imager added to CNSI’s light microscopy resources

Leica THUNDER Imager removes blur from out-of-focus areas

by Wayne Lewis

Zebrafish gills,immunostained for GFP (yellow), actin (magenta), and DAPI (cyan). A z-stack was obtained with a Thunder Imager using a 20x/0.8 objective (A) and further processed using large volume computational clearing and extended depth of field projection analysis (B). (Image credit: CNSI Advanced Light Microscopy and Spectroscopy Laboratory)

Too often, scientists and engineers seeking to image living cells in three dimensions get less out of their data than they hoped due to the haze of regions that fall out of focus.

Now, there’s a unique option for researchers to address this issue at UCLA — the Leica THUNDER Imager. The instrument removes out-of-focus light in real time, offering the best quality widefield images possible for studying live cells, cell cultures, tissue samples, stem cells, spheroids, organoids and more. The THUNDER Imager is available for use at the Advanced Light Microscopy and Spectroscopy Lab, an open-access Technology Center in the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.

“The THUNDER Imager provides confocal-like, high-resolution imaging with the speed and ease of use of a standard widefield microscope,” said Laurent Bentolila, scientific director of ALMS.

The key technology behind the instrument’s performance is Leica’s Computational Clearing, an opto-digital method for removing out-of-focus light by taking the size of the targeted specimen features into account. This method enables the meaningful use of thick, 3D specimens with camera-based fluorescence microscopy.

Using the THUNDER Imager, investigators can distinguish single cells from each other, segment those cells and follow them within a 3D culture. Combining Computational Clearing with a high-performance sCMOS camera provides a level of sensitivity that allows users to minimize light exposure, both in intensity and duration, in order to interrogate biological specimens under conditions closer to their natural state.

The THUNDER Imager also makes it possible to automate 3D cell culture assays for efficient study of the latest disease models. Large-volume samples can be processed at high-speed, while user interaction is minimized even for complex experiments and workflows.

Those interested in using the THUNDER Imager are encouraged to contact alms@cnsi.ucla.edu. Bentolila is reachable for project consultation and proof-of-concept at lbento@cnsi.ucla.edu