Molecular Machines & Industries

Microscope Scanning


What is Microscope Scanning?

Whole slide imaging is an emerging technology to scan digital slides in full resolution. Many slide scanner systems available on the market are box systems with fixed instrument configurations such as one dedicated objective and one imaging mode. This setup of such a tissue slide scanner is highly optimized for one type of sample and can easily be implemented in high-throughput devices with thousands of slides per day without any manual interaction. Microscope scanners, in contrast, provide much higher flexibility as they are integrated in research microscopes. During microscope scanning, the microscope stage is moving the tissue slides while the microscope camera acquires images of each field of view. Although the throughput of these microscope scanning systems is typically much lower and requires hands-on time to load and unload slides, they offer a broad application range, being able to scan different types of samples at different resolutions and with different imaging modes.

How does a Microscope Scanner work?

Microscope scanners are whole slide imaging systems based on microscopes. While the microscope stage is moving rapidly in small steps across the entire microscope slide or sample tray, individual images are taken from each field of view. All images are stitched together by the software already during the microscope scanning process. A single digital file in full resolution is generated and can digitally be viewed, archived or shared.

What is Microscope Scanning used for?

Whole slide imaging in general is widely employed in Digital Pathology. Microscope scanning specifically is applied if the pathology labs require a flexible setup which can easily be adapted to different samples or analyses, for example to serve both as a fluorescence scanner as well as a brightfield imaging system. Microscope scanning is therefore mainly used in research settings where scientists aim to scan their samples such as tissue sections or live cell cultures in a highly versatile and flexible way. Tissue sections for example require good color cameras to provide high color fidelity in the digital image. Live cell cultures, however, might need to be scanned in several fluorescence channels to provide full information on viability, cell type and expression status of the individual cells. Since microscope scanning systems can be flexibly changed regarding their settings, such as objectives and fluorescence filters, these scanners provide a broad application range and can thus be applied in different basic and clinical research areas.

What are the advantages and benefits of using Microscope Scanning?

Microscope Scanning is advantageous over box scanner systems because of the much higher versatility thus offering a plethora of different applications. The flexibility of microscope scanning systems is mainly achieved by the different sample trays being able to hold tissue slides, well plates and cell culture dishes. Thus, microscope scanners can also be used for live cell scanning. Since motorized microscopes can easily switch between brightfield and fluorescence, microscope scanning is not limited to histology or immunohistochemistry stains, but the microscope scanner can also work as fluorescence scanner to acquire images of tissue and cells stained with fluorescence markers. In addition, microscope scanners can also be used as normal research microscopes, thus saving money, resources and lab space.

What are the disadvantages of using Microscope Scanning?

In contrast to many box slide scanner systems, microscope scanning offers only limited throughput of only a few slides at a time, depending on the slide holder in the microscope stage. As the scanning speed per slide is comparable to box systems, a similar amount of slides can be scanned with microscope scanning systems per time but requires manual interaction to load new slides to be scanned.

What unique solutions do MMI offer in the field of Microscope Scanning?

With the MMI CellScan, MMI provides a unique microscope scanner with various features and functionalities. As a microscopy scanning system, it can be flexibly used as tissue slide scanner, as fluorescence scanner or as live cell scanning system. Features such as multi-color fluorescence, z-stack or time lapse provide additional dimensions and information to the scanned images. Digital images are saved in the open BigTIFF file format and can be analyzed using the free MMI CellViewer software as well as many other image analysis tools.

Interestingly, the MMI CellScan can also be combined with the MMI CellCut Laser Microdissection systems, as well as with other MMI modules. These combinations allow for unique workflow options including cell imaging, automated and remote image analysis and cell detection, single cell isolation, and full documentation of the whole process.
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