Optical sensor measures oxygen directly in cells and tissues

Tuesday, 10 June, 2014

German biotechnology company ibidi has revealed a device that optically measures the exact oxygen content directly in cells and tissues. The ibidi OPAL Optical O2 Measurement System determines the correct O2 content, which is a critical factor in maintaining the natural behaviour of cells in culture.

Cells will only behave naturally when they are cultured under the specific conditions of their biological environment. In mammals, the most prominent conditions are temperature, pH, O2 and CO2 concentration, and constant concentrations of salts and nutrients. In order to achieve biologically relevant results, it is crucial to maintain these conditions on the microscope stage during live cell imaging experiments.

In addition to controlling the oxygen concentration in the stage top incubator, it is important to know the real oxygen concentration near the cells, or even inside the cells. Because cells consume oxygen, the concentrations are typically much lower in cell clusters, such as tissue or spheroids.

The OPAL technology, developed by ibidi’s cooperative partner, Colibri Photonics, is a suitable tool for mimicking the conditions of real tissue in in vitro experiments, making it possible to measure the real oxygen concentration directly inside the Petri dish. Extra- and intracellular O2 concentrations in cells and tissues can be quickly determined in just a few seconds. Subsequently, cell culture conditions can be adapted to the real conditions in tissues.

Oxygen-sensitive beads, or nanoparticle reagents, are used in combination with the system. By identifying changes in the fluorescence lifetime of these particles, the oxygen concentration in the immediate neighbourhood, or directly inside the cells, can be determined. In contrast to existing technologies, the measurement is non-invasive and occurs in real time, making it suitable for in vitro hypoxia conditions, such as 3D cultures, spheroid models and tissues.

“We are very excited to bring this innovative new technology into the market,” said ibidi President Dr Roman Zantl. “We, along with Colibri Photonics, want to advance the knowledge of oxygen conditions in cell culture, because this is a crucial factor in cancer treatment.”

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