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Cell Culture Observation System

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The world's first integrated cell culture observation device.

The Nikon BioStation CT allows imaging experiments to be conducted without ever removing the cells from the incubator. Consisting of a standard sized tissue culture incubator with an inverted microscope inside, BioStation CT holds 30 vessels ranging from 96 well plates to 75cm2 flasks, which are moved between the microscope stage and the vessel rack via a robotic device while maintaining precise levels of CO2, humidity, and temperature. BioStation CT provides images from 2x to 40x phase images with apodized phase contrast (APC) optics and fluorescence images with three color LED illumination. A bird's eye color macro view allows the entire vessel to be viewed from above. Complete security is provided: users access only the samples for which they have clearance. Experimental results are reliably traced and can be accessed remotely via an internet connection or LAN.

Key Features

Stem Cell Screening Inside the Incubator

In the culture and observation of cells, conventional equipment places stress on valuable cell lines, risks contamination, and can lead to decreased cell viability. The BioStation CT automatically conducts operations from culture to observation of cells under optimal conditions in the same incubator, according to a user-configured schedule. Moreover, culture condition records are saved with image data for worry-free culture of important samples.

BioStation CT Diagram

Environmental Management

Cell viability is dependent on the performance of the CO2 incubation system. Nikon’s BioStation employs powerful functionality for stable environmental control of CO2, temperature, and humidity, reducing stress on cells; thereby enhancing viability.

BioStation CT Environmental Control
  • Temperature Management - A direct heating system that accurately maintains a constant temperature is employed for temperature management. Sheet type heaters built into the incubator’s six sides directly control the temperature.
  • Humidity Management - An advanced humidification system is employed for humidity management. The risk of contamination, common in standard incubation sytems, has been reduced through the use of an air jet.
  • Reduction of Stress on Cells - An access gate is used to minimize transient environmental fluctuations when placing samples in the carrier. The access gate is a much smaller area then the entire incubator door.
  • Accurate Records of Environmental Changes - The control unit is equipped with a computer that records environmental changes along the time axis. It allows secure management of three major elements (temperature, humidity and CO2 concentration) of the incubator and saves environmental changes linked to images as a log.

Imaging Modalities

Point Observation

Multiple points can be selected throughout each well, dish, or flask. Points can be selected either by using default positions or customized, user-defined locations.

Full Well Scan

A full recreation of the area and cells within the well or dish at low magnification.


Stitched image (tiles) areas can be selected through each well, dish, or flask. Tiles can be selected either with the default center position or customized, user-defined locations.

Micro View

BioStation CT Micro View

The enclosed inverted microscope offers sophisticated imaging capabilities:

  • Images captured with 1 megapixel cooled CCD camera
  • Range of magnification from 2x to 40x that can be user selected depending on application requirements.
  • An image acquisition system with auto focus allows simple and accurate observation of cells and storage of images.
  • A newly developed observation stage — specifically designed to perform in environments with humidity of over 95% — provides a broad 120 x 86mm observation area.
  • Nikon’s exclusive Apodized Phase Contrast (APC) objective lens reduces halo and provides clear images of minute intracellular structures.
  • An LED illumination system that is less phototoxic to cells than conventional equipment is used for fluorescence observation.
  • The phase contrast illumination, which is typically difficult to adjust, provides optimal illumination at every magnification.

Macro View

BioStation CT Macro View
  • Images captured with Color CCD Camera
  • Confirm handwritten vessel notes, change in culture medium color, mold generation, etc.
  • Monitor pH level of culture media using color analysis

Vessel Rack and Transfer Unit


The BioStation CT's unique design includes a 30 space rack that can accommodate a wide variety of vessels, such as culture flasks, 35mm dishes and multi-well plates. Up to 30 multi-well plates can be placed in the BioStation CT, enabling a wide range of complex, custom configurations for imaging assays.

The transfer unit automatically transfers culture vessels from the rack to the inverted microscope according to a configured schedule. This transfer is executed with great care to avoid media splashing and mechanical vibration.

Operation and Data Acquisition


The BioStation CT is not only for culture and observation of cells, as it places great importance on cell traceability for each experiment. Post-culture experiments can also be conducted with high reliability.

  • Removing culture vessels, viewing records and preparing schedules requires the user to log in. Use of a log-in menu allows secure storage of important cells and verification of all access and manipulation.
  • With an easy-to-use and visually intuitive software menu, the number of culture vessels stored in each storage space is visible at a glance. Selected vessels can be individually moved to the access gate by the transfer unit, leaving all other trays untouched.
  • Acquired cell culture data (temperature, humidity, CO2 gas concentration), name of handler, and saved images can be viewed. Remote observation from outside the laboratory via a network is also possible.
  • 2 TB of on-board hard disk space for image storage.

Optional Modules


  • Visualize live fluorescence using cell-friendly LED excitation wavelengths for 5 channels
  • Preconfigured for common fluorescent dyes: GFP, CFP, DsRed
  • On-the-fly phase/fluorescent overlay for co-localization studies
  • For use with off-the-shelf dichroic filters
  • Captures maximum intensities without losing resolution
  • Select offsets with individual fluorescence channels
  • Real-time optimization of fluorescence signal to noise
  • Save and re-use preferred settings
  • More camera controls
BioStation CT Fluorescence

Mixed Gas Environment

  • Controls levels of CO2, O2  
  • Mimics hypoxic environment
  • Grow embryos in optimal condition
  • Supports regenerative medicine applications

 Image Analysis Software

  • BioStation CT Importer function works in conjunction with NIS-Elements HCA package
  • Enables all the functionality and tools accessible in NIS-Elements AR/HCA package
  • Visualization tools, Graphing, and Image Analysis
  • Batch image analysis capable
  • Seamless import of all multidimensional image data sets
  • Familiar operating environment within Nikon’s traditional ND2 format
  • Enhancements to data management capabilities
  • Works directly with the BioStation CT Communicator tool that can be networked or placed on a local computer

Networking & Remote Access


Configuring the imaging settings, scheduling a time-lapse experiment, and viewing the cell images are possible via a network. The captured data can be automatically downloaded to the user's local computer. This enables users to monitor the cell status away from the laboratory. When a culture environment (temperature, humidity, CO2concentration) control error occurs, BioStation CT can notify the users of the error by e-mails.

Acquired images are automatically transferred to a local network or remote computer for archival purposes and image analysis. Images can then be imported to NIS-Elements HCA for further review and analysis.

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