Deconvolution of images from 3D printed cells in layers on a chip.

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Layer-by-layer cell printing is useful in mimicking layered tissue structures inside the human body and has great potential for being a promising tool in the field of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and drug discovery. However, imaging human cells cultured in multiple hydrogel layers in 3D-printed tissue constructs is challenging as the cells are not in a single focal plane. Although confocal microscopy could be a potential solution for this issue, it compromises the throughput which is a key factor in rapidly screening drug efficacy and toxicity in pharmaceutical industries. With epifluorescence microscopy, the throughput can be maintained at a cost of blurred cell images from printed tissue constructs. To rapidly acquire in-focus cell images from bioprinted tissues using an epifluorescence microscope, we created two layers of Hep3B human hepatoma cells by printing green and red fluorescently labeled Hep3B cells encapsulated in two alginate layers in a microwell chip. In-focus fluorescent cell images were obtained in high throughput using an automated epifluorescence microscopy coupled with image analysis algorithms, including three deconvolution methods in combination with three kernel estimation methods, generating a total of nine deconvolution paths. As a result, a combination of Inter-Level Intra-Level Deconvolution (ILILD) algorithm and Richardson-Lucy (RL) kernel estimation proved to be highly useful in bringing out-of-focus cell images into focus, thus rapidly yielding more sensitive and accurate fluorescence reading from the cells in different layers. © 2017 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2017.

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