A label-free microscopy method for assessing the differentiation status of stem cells is presented with potential application for characterization of therapeutic stem cell populations. The microscopy system is capable of characterizing live cells based on the use of evanescent wave microscopy and quantitative phase contrast (QPC) microscopy. The capability of the microscopy system is demonstrated by studying the differentiation of live immortalised neonatal mouse neural stem cells over a 15 day time course. Metrics extracted from microscope images are assessed and images compared with results from endpoint immuno-staining studies to illustrate the system's performance. Results demonstrate the potential of the microscopy system as a valuable tool for cell biologists to readily identify the differentiation status of unlabelled live cells.
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