Zhang, L., Alt, C., Li, P., White, R.M., Zon, L.I., Wei, X., and Lin, C.P. (2012) An optical platform for cell tracking in adult zebrafish. Cytometry. Part A : the journal of the International Society for Analytical Cytology. 81(2):176-182.
Adult zebrafish are being increasingly used as a model in cancer and stem cell research. Here we describe an integrated optical system that combines a laser scanning confocal microscope (LSCM) and an in vivo flow cytometer (IVFC) for simultaneous visualization and cell quantification. The system is set up specifically for non-invasive tracking of both stationary and circulating cells in adult zebrafish (casper) that have been engineered to be optically transparent. Confocal imaging in this instrument serves the dual purpose of visualizing fish tissue microstructure and an imaging-based guide to locate a suitable vessel for quantitative analysis of circulating cells by IVFC. We demonstrate initial testing of this novel instrument by imaging the transparent adult zebrafish casper vasculature and tracking circulating cells in CD41-GFP/Gata1-DsRed transgenic fish whose thrombocytes/erythrocytes express the green and red fluorescent proteins. In vivo measurements allow cells to be tracked under physiological conditions in the same fish over time, without drawing blood samples or sacrificing animals. We also discuss the potential applications of this instrument in biomedical research.