Report on Automated High Throughput Microscope Imaging from the 11th Cytometry Development Workshop held October 14-17, 2001 at Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, California

The biomedical research community faces for the first time the realistic prospect of identifying and understanding the functions and interactions of all macromolecules in all human tissues. To accomplish this goal, much current research is directed at development of high throughput methods for determining which genes and proteins are expressed in tissues under various conditions. Much less effort is currently being directed towards high throughput methods for determining the locations of those proteins within cells and tissues and the ways in which those locations change during development and in response to environmental and hormonal influences. The challenge for proteomics research is to develop high throughput methods to obtain information on all of the factors that influence protein function in cells.

With perhaps hundreds of thousands of different proteins, lipids, nucleotides and other molecules in living cells, automation is fundamental to acquiring, collating, organizing, storing and interpreting information on cellular behavior at the molecular level. Current light microscope instrumentation, coupled with a large arsenal of fluorescent and other labeling techniques, offers tremendous potential to localize, identify and characterize cell molecules. Although some current systems provide limited automation (especially with respect to instrument configuration), useful high throughput automation has been elusive. Research challenges remain for creating ubiquitous tools for high speed, high resolution light microscope analysis of cells and tissue. These include:

The workshop participants recommend that the newly formed National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) in its sponsored research programs emphasize high resolution light microscope imaging as an important complement to imaging modalities that provide information at other scales. In particular, we recommend that the NIBIB encourage research proposals that address the challenges listed above, especially those that take a systems approach to automated high throughput light microscope imaging.