, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 166-172

A Cost-Effective Method for the Automatic Quantitative Analysis of Fibroblastic Colony-Forming Units

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A great deal of the work characterizing stromal cell precursors in the bone marrow has been performed using the fibroblastic colony-forming unit (CFU-f) assay. However, the assay is limited in its usefulness by the necessity for manual colony counting which means that assay quantitation is highly subjective, time consuming, and much information regarding the colony size is lost. To rectify this, we have developed a computer-automated method for the analysis of CFU-f. Bone marrow cells were cultured at low density and treated with either prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), or dexamethasone, and colony formation was assessed by staining with methylene blue. After staining, the dishes were photographed over a light box using a digital camera and the image was then analyzed using Bioimage ``Intelligent Quantifier'' image analysis software which automatically locates and quantifies each individual colony. The data can then be imported to a spreadsheet program and processed. We have shown that this system can accurately identify, assign coordinates, and quantitate each individual colony. Colony numbers obtained with this method and manually counting showed a linear relationship with a correlation coefficient of 0.99. In addition, using the colony intensity and surface area data, the colony size can be calculated. With this methodology, we have shown that dexamethasone, PGE2, and bFGF can all modulate total cell numbers in bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC) cultures but modulating both colony number and colony size.

Received: 22 January 1998 / Accepted: 10 January 1999