High-throughput live-imaging of embryos in microwell arrays using a modular specimen mounting system

Biol Open. 2018 Jul 9;7(7):bio031260. doi: 10.1242/bio.031260.


High-throughput live-imaging of embryos is an essential technique in developmental biology, but it is difficult and costly to mount and image embryos in consistent conditions. Here, we present OMMAwell, a simple, reusable device to easily mount dozens of embryos in arrays of agarose microwells with customizable dimensions and spacing. OMMAwell can be configured to mount specimens for upright or inverted microscopes, and includes a reservoir to hold live-imaging medium to maintain constant moisture and osmolarity of specimens during time-lapse imaging. All device components can be fabricated by cutting pieces from a sheet of acrylic using a laser cutter or by making them with a 3D printer. We demonstrate how to design a custom mold and use it to live-image dozens of embryos at a time. We include descriptions, schematics, and design files for 13 additional molds for nine animal species, including most major traditional laboratory models and a number of emerging model systems. Finally, we provide instructions for researchers to customize OMMAwell inserts for embryos or tissues not described herein.

Keywords: Development; Embryogenesis; High-throughput; Image analysis; Microscopy; Quantitative imaging; Time lapse.