Module to support real-time microscopic imaging of living organisms on ground-based microgravity analogs

Srujana Neelam, Audrey Lee, Michael A. Lane, Ceasar Udave, Howard G. Levine, Ye Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since opportunities for spaceflight experiments are scarce, ground-based microgravity simulation devices (MSDs) offer accessible and economical alternatives for gravitational biology studies. Among the MSDs, the random positioning machine (RPM) provides simulated microgravity conditions on the ground by randomizing rotating biological samples in two axes to distribute the Earth’s gravity vector in all directions over time. Real-time microscopy and image acquisition during microgravity simulation are of particular interest to enable the study of how basic cell functions, such as division, migration, and proliferation, progress under altered gravity conditions. However, these capabilities have been difficult to implement due to the constantly moving frames of the RPM as well as mechanical noise. Therefore, we developed an image acquisition module that can be mounted on an RPM to capture live images over time while the specimen is in the simulated microgravity (SMG) environment. This module integrates a digital microscope with a magnification range of 20 to 700, a high-speed data transmission adaptor for the wireless streaming of time-lapse images, and a backlight illuminator to view the sample under brightfield and darkfield modes. With this module, we successfully demonstrated the real-time imaging of human cells cultured on an RPM in brightfield, lasting up to 80 h, and also visualized them in green fluorescent channel. This module was successful in monitoring cell morphology and in quantifying the rate of cell division, cell migration, and wound healing in SMG. It can be easily modified to study the response of other biological specimens to SMG.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3122
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021


  • Cell culture
  • Live cell imaging
  • Microgravity simulation
  • Random positioning machine


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