It’s all about teamwork! - To execute the construction and the
first applications of a portable time-lapse microscope within a very short
time, Dr. Gilbert appointed his team of developers in June 2013.
Under his direction, the specialized group consisting of six under-graduate students (Course: Life Science Engineering) developed the portable, affordable and user-friendly time-lapse microscope xCell.
The xCell project consists of six interacting sub-projects. The intensive cooperation between the team members has been relevant for the success of the entire project. The under-graduate students have had the chance to gain experience that is not part of the curriculum, but which are important key qualifications in professional life - whether in academia or industry.
A big thank you goes out to Thomas Kästner who’s shots enrich this site in a very special and personal way.
Creative director & initiator of the xCell projekt:
Dr. Daniel Gilbert
"What can I do toimprove the chances to cure serious diseases and to support the development of new therapeutic approaches?"
"Is there away to operate with time-lapse microscopynot only localized? Might it be possible to develop a portable system that is easy to use and still gains the desired performance?"
"Does the investment for a powerful time-lapse microscope have to be like the amountof the prize of severalsmall cars so that most research institutions can’t effort it?"
Motivated by these questions, Dr. Daniel Gilbert, who works at the Departmentof Medical Biotechnology, Erlangen (chairholder: Prof.
OliverFriedrich), has a vision:
To develop a low cost, easy to use and portable time-lapse microscope that makes it possible to examine the dynamics and life processes of living cells on the whole and in many locations world wide.
He recognized the symptoms of our times: There has been a paradigm shift in cell biology in the
recent years. Today the experts agree that it is necessary to acquire dynamic processes on the whole in order to approach the complex cellular events by making a time-lapse study of the life processes instead of only analyzing
Although there has been a significant increase in publications since 2010 the total
number of time-lapse microscopic studies is still rather low.
Knowing that the horrendous sum to purchase a time-lapse microscope is simply not payable for most research institutions, Gilbert begins to develop the first prototype of a portable time-lapse microscope in his spare time and basically financed privately - with success.
In his xCell project six under-graduate students are working under his supervision on the construction and initial application of xCell - a system that makes our world a bit better due to its many forms of application not only in medical and biological research.
Project coordination, documentation & public relations:
Disoriented is someone who has no target - A project like the xCell project can only be successful if the target formulation, organization, time management and coordination of the work go hand in hand. Maria Walzik, under-graduate student in the 6th term of the field Life Science Engineering at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nuremberg, is responsible for the project management of xCell.
Is the specified schedule feasible? Which step has to follow to reach the next milestone? How can the quality always be safeguarded? Due to her attentive project management findings and conclusions are also drawn for future projects, which are essential for the further development of xCell - a recipe for success!
Housing and system design:
"Square, practical, good" - this is not only the advertising
slogan of a famous chocolate maker - xCell is undoubtedly a visual dainty!
Under-graduate student Theresa Lachnit is in the 6th term of the program Life Science Engineering at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nuremberg. She develops the practical and attractive design of xCell. By using the CAD drawing program and the 3D printer the handy box made of plastic and aluminum is produced. The material has the special advantages that it is very lightweight and inexpensive and thus favors the mobility and production costs.
Sensor technology, mechatronics & software control:
Technology that inspires! - Holger Bachmann, under-graduate student in the 6th term of the field Life Science Engineering designed the inner workings of xCell. With the motto "As much as necessary, as little as possible" he developed boards for the control of the system components and created a first draft for an easy-to-use and clearly structured user interface for the application of xCell. Within a very short time he programmed in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Gilbert the hardware control of xCell using Rapid Prototyping technologies for software development. The well-structured and effective working software distinguishes xCell and stands for its quality and reliability. Due to limiting the most important functions of a solid time-lapse microscope, using xCell is extremely simple, and allows anyone - from elementary school students to hobby tinkerers - to work like a real scientist! This makes experimenting fun and the results impressive!
Establishment and maintenance of cell cultures for time-lapse microscopy:
NoCell, oneCell, xCell – To be able to study the dynamics of various cell types, these cells first of all have to be available. Susanne Haug, an under-graduate student in the 6th term of the field Life Science Engineering, cultured different cell strains for time-lapse imaging in DMEM (= "Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium"). Since for the benchmarking of semi-project 5 (SP 5), using xCell and a conventional time-lapse microscope, different biological samples have be investigated and analyzed, such as human kidney cells (HEK293 cells), and thus adequate samples need to be providedTo maintain the cell cultures optical checks have to be performed regularly. By using phase contrast microscopy or staining techniques for bright-field microscopy growth and development can be checked. To make the cells continuously available for the benchmarking, they are stored via cryopreservation. In addition, various cell types from everyday life, such as Yeast cells from commercial baker's yeast or cells from the oral mucosa, are cultivated and used for the comparison by SP 5.
Benchmarking with conventional technology:
Developing means comparison -
"How can I improve
the system further " is the theme
of each developer looking for a new standard of quality.
Helmut Dietz is an under-graduate student in the 6th term of the field Life Science and Engineering and asks exactly this question. From the direct comparison of xCell with a conventional time-lapse microscope, he draws conclusions about the actual quality improvement and the benefits xCell provides the user for time-lapse imaging. By a careful benchmarking the development of xCell approaches more and more the optimum. Limits and possibilities are explored, vulnerabilities resolved and thus the creation of a powerful product which is a guarantee for success takes place.
Business plan for a commercial exploitation of the technology:
Looking ahead - The project to build and do the first scientific applications of xCell is just the tip of the iceberg. With xCell not only research institutes should be able to operate with time-lapse imaging - but also universities, colleges, other educational facilities, moreover alternative medical professionals and do-it-yourself scientists. With xCell science is seizable: Youngster can easily dive into the world of cells - the interest in nature and technology is awakened.Hoai Thuong Nguyen, under-graduate student in the 6th term of the field Life Science Engineering weighs these opportunities and possibilities of the business idea of xCell on the market and provides forecasts for the sustainable production and development of the portable box. At length she discusses aspects such as corporate organization, personnel management, risk analysis and financial planning which arise by launching a company. How can the location Erlangen evaluated and which marketing strategies could be pursued? The business plan is a guide for the future development of xCell.