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Liftoscope speeds up reliable cell analysis

19 Mar 2024

Fraunhofer platform adding AI-assisted sorting process to commercial microscopes is released.

A platform designed by Franhofer ILT and Fraunhofer IPT to efficiently and automatically isolate living cells using laser-induced forward transfer (LIFT) is now being made available to the public.

Christened Liftoscope, the technology is intended to be easily added to commercially available inverted microscopes. Fraunhofer will be presenting its device at April's analytica 2024 show in Munich.

Designed during a two-year project, Liftoscope combines two technologies: a LIFT system for detaching cells using a laser developed by Fraunhofer ILT; and a high-speed microscope from Fraunhofer IPT for rapid imaging with AI analysis methods for cell culture.

One driver behind the project was the Covid-19 pandemic, which showed that available clinical methods for isolating and analyzing immune cells from patient samples were pushing laboratories to their capacity limits. The commercial Liftoscope device should now help alleviate some of those issues.

Fraunhofer describes the Liftoscope platform as using a high-speed microscope to scan a cell culture plate, a bespoke algorithm to analyze the resulting image data and determine cell morphology in the plate's hydrogel layer, and a laser-based principle to then physically move the cells.

The LIFT operation itself uses irradiation to create a droplet laden with cells or proteins. A 9-nanosecond pulse from a 3-micron laser source applied to the hydrogel layer creates a vapor bubble, with the expansion and collapse of the bubble propelling the transfer layer forward and moving an embedded cell onto a receiver slide within a well-defined volume.

During the development project Fraunhofer indicated that a remaining challenge in a LIFT approach was the transfer of cells adherently growing on a surface before transfer, using an appropriate hydrogel to improve the cell survival rate. Fraunhofer IPT and ILT were also working on a faster and more sophisticated algorithm, that can classify and select cells based on various characteristics.

Growth in personalized medicine

This optimization has required the use of high-precision actuators both for imaging and for positioning the laser focus in the process cycle, to ensure that the process reaches the required image resolution for AI-supported cell detection and measurement, positioning the laser focus accurately to within 25 micrometers.

The AI developed at Fraunhofer IPT for the platform uses semantic segmentation to identify the desired cell types in this image data, and can be trained to recognize pluripotent stem cells, high-producer cells and immune cells. The AI also determines the cells' exact position and center of gravity.

In the completed platform, a single cell transfer is completed within 200 microseconds, according to the developers. Within 100 seconds, 10,000 cells can be activated with the Liftoscope and transferred to targets on microtiter plates.

The potential growth in personalized medicine will help the technology find its way quickly into medical, pharmaceutical and clinical practice, according to the Fraunhofer developers, and the Liftoscope platform "points the way to a fully automated and highly efficient isolation of living cells."

ABTechFirst Light ImagingLASEROPTIK GmbHMad City Labs, Inc.Hyperion OpticsCeNing Optics Co LtdTRIOPTICS GmbH
© 2024 SPIE Europe
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