We have designed and fabricated a miniature microscope from off-the-shelf components and a webcam, with built-in fluorescence capability for biomedical applications. The mini-microscope was able to detect both biochemical parameters, such as cell/tissue viability (e.g. live/dead assay), and biophysical properties of the microenvironment such as oxygen levels in microfabricated tissues based on an oxygen-sensitive fluorescent dye. This mini-microscope has adjustable magnifications from 8–60×, achieves a resolution as high as <2 μm, and possesses a long working distance of 4.5 mm (at a magnification of 8×). The mini-microscope was able to chronologically monitor cell migration and analyze beating of microfluidic liver and cardiac bioreactors in real time, respectively. The mini-microscope system is cheap, and its modularity allows convenient integration with a wide variety of pre-existing platforms including, but not limited to, cell culture plates, microfluidic devices, and organs-on-a-chip systems. Therefore, we envision its widespread application in cell biology, tissue engineering, biosensing, microfluidics, and organs-on-chips, which can potentially replace conventional bench-top microscopy where long-term in situ and large-scale imaging/analysis is required.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Lab on a Chip Pioneers of Miniaturization Lectureship winners