Cell Culture

Get what you need and increase efficiency in your live cell imaging workflow with cell and tissue culture inverted microscopes from Leica Microsystems.

These easy-to-use microscopes allow you to configure an imaging solution for your needs with flexible condenser options and digital imaging documentation features; creating a solution that is just right for your lab.

Simply get in touch!

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

Leica cell culture microscope systems 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/hotel solution fits vessels up to 400mm tall

Find your Cell Culture Solution

When it comes to cell cultures there are a couple of differences between the solution´s instruments. If you are looking for a cell culture solution 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 in the microscope. Whereas fibroblast-like cells have a bi- or multipolar, elongated shape, epithelial-like cells show a polygonal outline. In contrast to the upper two, lymphoblast-like cells don’t grow attached to a surface but in suspension.
  • The type of a cell can be subdivided into immortalized cells, primary cells and stem cells.
  • The cell organization can range from simple 2D mono-culture through 2D co-culture, to 3D spheroids and organoids






African green monkey

HEK 293















A few examples of cell lines used in cell culture.


How to grow cells

Animal cells are cultured in all kinds of different vessels, ranging from tiny microfluidic devices used for basic research, through 96-well plates for screening, to cell 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 culture contains

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

Moreover it includes a buffer system plus a pH indicator to check a balanced pH.

Cell culture maintenance

What is the daily work?

Since the ingredients in the culture medium are consumed by the cells, it is necessary to renew it regularly. On this occasion cell cultures should undergo a visual check for confluency, healthiness and to detect potential microbiological 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 e.g. add fluorescent markers to their protein of interest in order to visualize it with a microscope.

Microscopes – Basic Requirements

What tool do I need?

To manage the daily work of a cell culture lab a microscope is needed. This microscope has to have an inverse configuration. Such an inverted microscope features the objective below and the condenser above the specimen, enabling a near enough proximity of the objective to the cells and a large working distance above.

Due to the very low intrinsic contrast of animal cells, a cell culture microscope has to deliver contrast methods such as phase contrast. DIC (Differential Interference Contrast) doesn’t help here, since it can’t be applied together with the plastic vessels used in cell 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 culture microscope should be easy to handle to prevent loss of time. 

Leica cell culture microscopes offer you the ease of use and the flexibility in contrast methods you need for your individual purpose.

Microscopes – Advanced Requirements

What tool do I need?

A very common cell biological approach is to transfect cells with fluorescent markers for subsequent investigation with a research microscope. If you are dealing with fluorescent proteins, also your cell culture microscope needs a fluorescence option e.g. to control transfection efficiency.

For a meaningful documentation and standardization, the microscope should feature a digital camera and ideally the ability to record and digest the acquired data.

As space is an issue in cell culture labs, a cell culture microscope shouldn’t be too big e.g. to fit under a 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 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.

Microscopes for large Scale Production

The production of biomaterials, for example proteins, vaccines or antibodies requires cell culture in large vessels.

To cope with this requirements, such a cell culture microscope has to feature a large working distance and field of view. Furthermore it needs a high stability to hold large vessels or even stacks of vessels securely. 

The Leica DM IL LED can be configured with an extra-long transmitted light illumination arm, giving you the free working distance you need for cell culture vessels up to a height of 40 cm.

Cell-based Assays

Live-cell applications

Cell culture is dynamic. Like any other biological system, cell growth and behavior are sometimes not easy to predict. That is why a permanent surveillance can be advantageous compared to cell culture checks at single time points.

This is where microscopes join the game which can be placed in the incubator and are able to monitor the cells around the clock. With this feature, a cell culture can be checked e.g. for confluency from any place in the world at any time. 


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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Image analysis using Aivia based on a single timepoint of a time-lapse recording of mammary epithelial micro spheroid cultured in 3D highlighting individual mitotic events. Data courtesy of intelligent imaging group (B. Eismann/C. Conrad at BioQuant/DKFZ Heidelberg)

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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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02. November 2007 Exploring Cell Logistics

Using TIRF microscopy, scientists have been able to take a closer look at intracellular transport processes with the example of the galactose-binding…

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17. March 2009 New Standard in Electrophysiology and Deep Tissue Imaging

The function of nerve and muscle cells relies on ionic currents flowing through ion channels. These ion channels play a major role in cell physiology.…

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22. April 2010 Stem Cell Biology in Cancer Research

The comprehension of stem cell biology and its molecular basis is now acquiring paramount importance in cancer research. The need to look at a…

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Confocal Microscopy mosaic of a layer 4 in neuron filled in the barrel cortex of a living rat

01. November 2010 Exploring the Concert of Neuronal Activities

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12. April 2011 TIRF Microscopy of the Apical Membrane of Polarized Epithelial Cells

Application of TIRF microscopy (Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence) allows the visualization of structures at the apical surface of polarized…

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12. April 2011 Mapping Billions of Synapses with Microscopy and Mathematics

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15. June 2011 Nanoscopy in a Living Multicellular Organism Expressing GFP

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07. September 2011 STED Nanoscopy of Actin Dynamics in Synapses deep inside Living Brain Slices

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