The widespread use of live imaging in biological research has contributed to important advances in the study of cell/organism structure and function. The MetaMorph Imaging System from Universal Imaging Corporation is an extremely useful symbiosis of hardware and software dedicated to image acquisition, processing, and analysis. There are 3 configurations of Metamorph (Offline, Basic, and Premier) and new advanced acquisition and processing tools are continuously being added. The MetaMorph Imaging System offers almost any operation required for powerful live cell imaging such as time-lapse, multi-dimensional acquisition, 3D reconstruction, distance measurements, co-localization and intensity measurements. The interface is extremely simple to use and the navigation between functions is very straightforward.
I use the version 5.0r6 and 6.1r0 in combination with a Nikon Eclipse TH 2000-E, Perkin Elmer UltraView spinning disk confocal microscope and a Hamamatsu ORCA-ER LCCD digital camera. MetaMorph software controls the microscope, filters wheels, shutters, LCCD camera and the focus motors (the same program can coordinate motorized stages). Newer versions have some improved features such as drag and drop for moving files into a Meta Series Application from Windows Explorer and tools to display length and area in calibration units.
For acquisition, one has the flexibility to set virtually all parameters. I often use time-lapse multi-wave image acquisition, as well as, Z series functions for imaging syncytial division of Drosophila embryos expressing various GFP-proteins. I usually use the time-lapse acquisition mode but occasionally (for rapid biological events), I switch to the stream acquisition mode. Once the image is acquired, date and elapsed time can be easily written on images, as well as, calibration bars. It is also possible to convert color images to monochrome, overlay images and document operations. In addition, the movie feature enables the conversion of stack files into .mov or .avi files.
Another important feature of this software is the ability to be customized. Automation is easy through journals and tasks, while toolbars and windows are customizable, as well. The writing of journals for system automation is quite easy to perform, even without any previous programming experience, as specific functions can be copy/pasted into the program. I use several journals that make data analysis faster in order to measure the distance between the edges of chromosome mass. Data are exported to text files or spreadsheet programs that support DDE (dynamic data exchange) such as Microsoft Excel. An area where the software could be improved is with the selection of files to be appended, regardless of the order in the directory. Another limitation of the program is that it is compatible only with Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP and not with Mac operating systems.
While the speed/easiness of using the system is comparable to other software, the customer support offered by the MetaMorph team is unmatched. They have always assisted me with any problem or malfunction and have even reconfigured the entire system following a breakdown caused by a power failure. We receive updates about new MetaMorph versions of the software regularly. Another very positive feature is a good collaboration with Perkin Elmer, which offers training workshops (such as on FRET/FRAP and on the live image acquisition).
Dr. Rosalind Silverman-Gavrila
Department of Medical Genetics and Microbiology
University of Toronto