Engineers from Vision Research Inc. (the makers of Phantom Cameras) & Spicatek Inc & have been collaborating on a new imaging system capable of performing real-time high-speed image processing for next generation applications in biomedical microfluidics. One such hot topic is an application called image cytometry. Image Cytometry is the measurement of cellular characteristics based on physical features discerned from an image (i.e., size, shape, opacity, granularity). These cellular features can be defined as phenotypic biomarkers, which can in turn be used to classify cells without having to parse their genetic code or having to tag them with a fluorophore.

In a typical cytometry experiment, cells flow through narrow microchannels at speeds on the order of 1/100th to 10 μm/μs, often demanding that the imaging system be capable of capturing video at thousands of frames per second with ultra-short exposure times. This feat alone demands some of the best imaging equipment available to researchers. To really push to it further, many researchers would like to process the images in real-time and be able to make a logical decision based on the resultant features seen within the image. To make this possible, new high-speed machine vision camera are coupled to new software provided by Spicatek Inc.

As a proof of concept, Kyle Gilroy, PhD of Vision Research developed a model system consisting of polystyrene spheres (diameter = 25 μm) flowing through a microfluidic channel. To give you an idea of the spatial scale, the width of your hair is ~ 50 μm. As the cell comes into the field-of-view of the camera, the Spicatek software (developed by Marco Gajardo & Mikael Brommels) automatically locks onto the cell and tracks its size, shape, position, and speed. The software is so fast that it can report this data to the user (or another instrument) before the next frame is captured (on the order of a few-hundred microseconds). In the example image provide, the Phantom camera is capturing data at 3300 frame per second at a resolution of 2048 x 720.

In conclusion, this system configuration can be thought of as the eyes and brain of futuristic quick-thinking medical equipment capable of rapidly analyzing a microphenomena to generate well-informed decisions.