Open-dish incubator for live cell imaging with an inverted microscope

Biotechniques. 2003 Oct;35(4):708-14, 716. doi: 10.2144/03354bi01.


Here we describe the design and fabrication of an inexpensive cell culture incubator for the stage of an inverted light microscope for use in live cell imaging. This device maintains the temperature of the cell culture at 37 degrees C with great stability and, after reaching equilibrium, provides focal stability of an image for 20-25 min with oil-immersion lenses. We describe two versions of the incubator: one for use with standard 60-mm plastic culture dishes, and the other version for imaging of cells on glass coverslips. Either can be made for less than $400. Most components are widely available commercially, and it requires only simple wiring and 3 h to assemble. Although the device is generally useful for live cell imaging on an inverted microscope, it is particularly suitable for work in which instruments are introduced into the culture, such as electrophysiology or micromanipulation. The design is based on the principle that control performance is limited by the lag time between detection and response. The key element of the design is a heated, temperature-controlled aluminum ring serving as a mini-incubator surrounding the culture vessel. For this reason, we call our design a "ringcubator."

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Cell Line
  • Environment, Controlled*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis*
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Image Enhancement / instrumentation*
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Incubators*
  • Online Systems
  • Rats