Cell Culture

Get what you need and increase the efficiency of your imaging workflow for​​​​​ cell and tissue culture with inverted microscopes from Leica Microsystems.

These easy-to-use microscopes allow you to configure an imaging solution which is optimal for your needs. They have flexible options for the condenser lens and digital imaging documentation features, creating a solution that is just right for your lab.

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Our experts on solutions for cell-and-tissue-culture applications are happy to help you with their advice.

Leica cell & tissue culture microscopes

They feature:

  • Easy-to-use operation that requires minimal training and maintenance so you can fully concentrate on your research
  • Cool, color-safe LED illumination for constant color temperature through all stages of intensity
  • Easy fluorescence (optional) to easily visualize your fluorescent markers
  • HD imaging (optional) – connect the HD camera directly to a monitor or PC; providing high quality publication images
  • Flexible working distance up to 80 mm for accommodating slides, petri dishes, multi-well dishes, and taller flasks
  • Cell factory solution fits vessels up to 400 mm tall

Find your Cell Culture Solution

When it comes to cell and tissue cultures, there are some important differences between the solutions. To help you find the appropriate solution for your cell-and-tissue-culture needs, please answer these four quick questions.

Do you use fluorescence?

Do you require standardized results?

Do you need a camera?

Which vessels do you use?

DMi 1
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Cell Classification

The appearances of cells

Lab-grown animal cells can be distinguished due to several criteria:

  • Their morphology is easy to identify with the microscope. Whereas fibroblast-like cells have a bi- or multi-polar, elongated shape, epithelial-like cells show a polygonal outline. In contrast to these first 2 cell types, lymphoblast-like cells don’t grow by adhering to a surface, but in suspension;
  • The type of cell can be subdivided into immortalized cells, primary cells, and stem cells;
  • The cell organization can range from simple 2D mono-culture to 2D co-culture as well as 3D spheroids and organoids.






African green monkey

HEK 293















A few examples of cell lines used for cell and tissue culture.


How to grow cells

Animal cells are cultured in all kinds of different vessels, ranging from tiny microfluidic devices used for basic research to 96-well plates for screening, cell-and-tissue-culture flasks, and cell factories for large scale pharmaceutical production. 

Due to their disposable use, the majority of containers is made of plastic. Others are specifically adopted to microscopy applications and therefore have a glass bottom. 

The medium for animal cell and tissue culture contains:

  • water;
  • an energy source;
  • amino acids;
  • vitamins; and
  • salts.

In addition to water and nutrients, it also includes a buffer system plus a pH indicator which can check if the cell medium is maintaining a balanced pH level.

Cell culture maintenance

What work has to be done every day?

Since the nutrients of the culture medium are consumed daily by the cells, it is necessary to renew them regularly. On occasion, cell and tissue cultures should undergo a visual check for confluency, cell health, and detection of any potential microbial contamination.

A characteristic of immortalized cell lines is their indefinite growth. That’s why they have to be split up once in a while (passaging) and transferred to separate culture vessels.

Commonly, cultured cells are genetically modified before using them for an experiment. With the help of transfection, researchers add things like fluorescent markers to their protein of interest in order to visualize it with an optical microscope.

Microscopes – Basic Requirements

What tools do I need for cell and tissue culture?

To manage the daily work of a cell-and-tissue-culture lab, a microscope with an inverse configuration is needed. Such an inverted microscope features the objective lens below and the condenser above the specimen, enabling the objective to be placed in proximity of the cells, often at the bottom of flasks, and a large working distance above the specimen so it can be easily handled during imaging.

Due to the very low intrinsic contrast of animal cells, a cell-and-tissue-culture microscope has to deliver contrast methods like phase contrast. DIC (Differential Interference Contrast) doesn’t help here, because it does not work with the plastic vessels used for cell and tissue culture. A very good alternative for DIC is IMC (Integrated Modulation Contrast), which works with plastic containers and, in addition, doesn’t need special objectives or prisms. Moreover, a cell-and-tissue-culture microscope should be easy to handle so cell imaging can be done efficiently. 

Leica cell-and-tissue-culture microscopes offer you the ease of use and flexibility with contrast methods that you need for your individual requirements.

Microscopes – Advanced Requirements

What tools do I need?

A very common approach is to transfect cells with fluorescent markers for subsequent investigation with a research optical microscope. If you are dealing with fluorescent proteins, also your cell-and-tissue-culture microscope needs a fluorescence option which allows transfection efficiency to be checked.

For meaningful documentation and standardization of work, the microscope should have a digital camera for the recording of acquired image data which can be further analyzed.

As space is an issue in many labs, a cell-and-tissue-culture microscope shouldn’t be too big, otherwise it may not be able to fit in a fume or flow hood. Moreover, recent trends demand microscopes which are small and robust enough to be used even inside an incubator.



Phase contrast





Working Distance








PH: 5x to 63x

IMC: 10x, 20x, 32x, 40x

40 mm, 80 mm

+ (free choice)

Leica DMi1






10x, 20x, 40x

40 mm, 50 mm, 80 mm

+ (integrated)

Microscopes dedicated to cell-and-tissue-culture lab work.

Leica Cell Culture Products

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The THUNDER Imager EM Cryo CLEM enables precise identification of cellular structures and smooth, secure transfer of coordinates, images, and samples through your correlative workflow.

Automated Tissue Processor EM TP

Leica EM TP

With the automated EM TP Tissue Processor, ultrastructures of your tissue samples can be precisely prepared every time.

EM Sample Preparation Freeze Fracture System Leica EM ACE900

Leica EM ACE900

High-End EM Sample Preparation Freeze Fracture System

Inverted Microscope for Cell and Tissue Culture

Leica DMi1

Entry level inverted microscope

Inverted Laboratory Microscope with LED Illumination


Inverted Laboratory Microscope with LED Illumination

Frequently Asked Questions Cell Culture

For you to have an overview on the overall status of a cell and tissue culture, a magnification of 100x – 200x is sufficient. The low intrinsic contrast of mammalian cells and tissues means specific contrast methods are needed to clearly observe them. Simple brightfield microscopy is often not sufficient. Phase contrast and integrated modulation contrast (IMC) are the most common ones which enable clear visualization of cells and tissues, whereas differential interference contrast (DIC) is not compatible with the plastic vessels normally used for cell and tissue culture. For fluorescence microscopy, the cells or tissues have to be transfected or labelled with fluorescent markers prior to imaging. For more information, refer to the article: Introduction to Mammalian Cell Culture

Cells are able to adhere to other cells and biocompatible surfaces due to interactions between cell-adhesion molecules, proteins in the cell plasma membrane, and other proteins or polypeptides. The bottom surface of plastic flasks and plates used for cell and tissue culture are treated and then coated with any number of a variety of biomaterials, such as collagen, laminin, fibronectin, heparin sulfate, hyaluronidate, etc. Synthetic polypeptides, like poly-lysine, have also been used as coatings for the plastic surfaces, because it creates a positive charge which can enhance cell attachment.


Image collage of a dividing HeLa cell. Left cell shows the fluorescent signals H2B-mCherry and alphaTubulin-mEGFP to visualize microtubules and DNA. The right image shows the corresponding cell, imaged in a transmission electron microscope.

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MDCK cells, Phase Contrast, red outlines are marking the cell borders. Courtesy of Prof. Ralf Jacob, University of Marburg, Germany

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Mammalian cells can be distinguished according to their morphology. Fibroblasts (left) have a bipolar or multipolar shape. Epithelial-like cells (middle) show more regular dimensions and lymphoblast-like cells (right) are round and grow in suspension.

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