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Live-cell imaging in education [Interview Q&A]

The Avans University of Applied Sciences is one of the biggest universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands. The school has a total student number of around 33.000, divided over the four locations across North-Brabant. One of the programs they offer is Biology and medical laboratory research which can be followed at the location in Breda. Last year, Avans received the CytoSMART Lux2 device to use for education purposes.

To learn more about their experiences of using the live-cell imaging system, we got the opportunity to record an interview at their location. We want to give a special thanks to Avans, the lectorate ‘Analyse Technieken’, Martie Verschuren, Margaretha Kaijen, and Edwin for providing us their insights.

Q: Could you tell us a bit more about this University of applied sciences and the programs that you offer in the field of Life Sciences?

Martie: We are one of the large University of Applied Sciences. We have approximately 33.000 students.

Margaretha: In general, students at this University of Applied Sciences are trained to become technicians in laboratories, diagnostics, or in the field of research.

Q: How long have you been using the CytoSMART Lux2, and how has it changed the way of cell culturing?

Margaretha: We’ve got the Cytosmart Lux2 device last school year, so about a full year now. What they had to do, was start an experiment on Monday and end it on Friday. They could come back on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to see how their cells were developing, but now, they can also start an experiment on Friday and visualize every 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or hour how their cells are developing the assay.

Q: Can you, as a student, tell us a bit more about the project you worked on while you were using the CytoSMART Lux2?

Edwin: During my project, I worked with monocytes, which are a type of white blood cells. We were differentiating them into macrophages. And we were able to visualize the differentiation from these monocytes into macrophages using the CytoSMART Lux2. It allowed me to monitor differentiation in real-time. For example, if there was some difference in the differentiation rate, or I did not see any differentiation between certain timepoints. I could say that maybe something went wrong.

Q: Apart from the practical aspect, what did the CytoSMART Lux2 add to your life as a biomedical laboratory student?

Edwin: For me, these videos really helped me engage in the project, for example, but also with cell culture in general. I was checking every five minutes to see if something happened. For me, that was really cool!

Q: What is the main difference if you compare the CytoSMART Lux2 to working with a traditional microscope?

Martie: Normally, in a traditional microscope, you have to take out the cells and put them under the microscope. The main disadvantage here, is that you always move. Especially since we use many leukemia cell lines, these cells are floating and do not stick around on the same spot. One advantage that the CytoSMART Lux2 brings is that you see whatever, and it stays on the same spot. The other advantage is that you can make time-lapse schedules. With these time-lapse schedules, you can see a lot of fun things. We were literally amazed; we were sitting together with a lot of people, pointing at things; we saw cells exploding; we saw cells, and that is really interesting, moving around, and they sniffle at each other, do dirty things with each other and divide. It was really fun to see that!

Margaretha: It is nice to see the development of cells, real-time. To see the eyes opening of our students literally when they see how cells are developing. You see that very much during the lessons. But now they can follow it at home in the weekends, and come back on Monday at school; ‘Do you know what happened to my cells?!’ It is so cool to see that the enthusiasm of students.

Q: What is the main contribution of live-cell imaging in education?

Martie: Normally, cell culture is a black box; you do something, you don’t see it, you don’t know it actually. Now you make it alive, which makes it for a teacher very lively to teach students that something is going on and that you can point to certain aspects that you would otherwise never see.

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