Vertebrate Automated Screening Technology (VAST) is a new modular, expandable platform to automate zebrafish handling.

VAST BioImager™

VAST BioImager™ Platform Overview

Automating Manipulation of Larvae for Imaging Screens

Union Biometrica develops tools for model organism research. The new VAST BioImager platform (Vertebrate Automated Screening Technology) is designed for zebrafish researchers who need to image large numbers of 2–7 day old sedated zebrafish larvae.

Fig. 1:  Base VAST BioImager System. Inset: close-up of capillary detail.
Fig. 1: Base VAST BioImager System. Inset: close-up of capillary detail.

Based on technology from the Yanik Lab at MIT1,2,3, VAST BioImager accelerates even the most demanding zebrafish handling and cellular-resolution imaging tasks for high-content screens. By automating the handling of larvae prior to imaging, VAST avoids the time consuming and tedious steps of manual manipulation of each larva during large screens.

Base System for Whole Zebrafish Organ-level Imaging

At the heart of VAST is a capillary where larvae can be loaded and manipulated for imaging. Batches of larvae can be loaded into the system using the 50 ml stirred conical tube sample cup. (For delivering larvae from a multi-well plate please see the autosampler option below.) To begin, the operator clicks on “Load.” VAST then loads one larva into the capillary and positions it laterally in the field of view of the on-board 10µm resolution camera.

VAST custom orientation

Fig. 2: Operator can select the desired orientation: lateral, dorsal or any other custom orientation.

Next the system rotates each larva 360 degrees to determine the orientation of the fish. The operator can then select the desired orientation: lateral, dorsal or any other custom orientation for image capture. All the remaining larvae will be rotated automatically to the same orientation using pattern recognition algorithms.

Once the image is captured, the operator then clicks on “continue” to eject the larva and load the next one. The VAST software allows manual or automated control of all the steps needed to capture and store images of the larvae.

Higher Resolution and Fluorescence Imaging With a Microscope

VAST BioImager

Fig. 3: VAST BioImager is a modular and expandable platform. It can be mounted on many microscopes for high resolution and fluorescence imaging.

For higher resolution imaging including cellular level imaging tasks for high content screens, VAST can be mounted on many models of upright compound microscopes or stereomicroscopes using the optional High Resolution Microscope Stage and Mounting Kit. Please see our specification sheet for critical microscope dimensions. (Note: Inverted microscopes can NOT be used.) The stage in this optional kit replaces the original stage found on select upright microscopes and enables automated micron-level positioning laterally along the zebrafish.

VAST BioImager

When using VAST with a microscope, once the larva is positioned using the on-board camera, the VAST internal light source is turned off and high-resolution images can be captured with the microscope's camera. Mounting VAST on a microscope equipped with fluorescence capability allows collection of fluorescence images.

The optional External Communications Package includes TTL inputs & outputs for automating communications with most microscopes and cameras.

Sample Introduction Options

There are 3 options for introducing larvae to the VAST system:

  • Bulk sample reservoir – via the on-board stirred 50 ml conical tube sample cup (described above)
  • From multiwell plates – via the LP Sampler
  • Individually – via the hand-held flow-through Pipettor


Fig. 4: Optional Large Particle Sampler can gently aspirate larvae from multi-well plates.

The optional LP Sampler can be added to the system to gently aspirate larvae from multi-well plates and deliver them one at a time to VAST for imaging. This allows for increased throughput of high content assays and screens.

Announcing NEW Dispensing Option – A dispenser option is now available for the LP Sampler which allows you to deposit each larvae into the corresponding well of a daughter plate after imaging.  (For details please see above “LP Sampler with Dispenser.pdf”)

Hand-held flow-through pipettor loads zebrafish to the VAST ...

Fig. 5: Hand-held flow-through pipettor loads zebrafish to the VAST one at a time at the click of a button thereby allowing the operator to “hand select” larvae.

The VAST BioImager System is a modular & expandable platform that allows researchers to avoid the tedious manual steps of loading, positioning and rotating zebrafish larvae for high-content imaging screens.

1. Nature Methods, 2010, 7 600-601 and 634-636, Carlos Pardo-Martin, Tsung-Yao Chang, Bryan Kyo Koo, Cody L Gilleland, Steven C Wasserman and Mehmet Fatih Yanik
2. Lab Chip, 2012, 12 711-716, Tsung-Yao Chang, Carlos Pardo-Martin, Amin Allalou, Carolina Wählby and Mehmet Fatih Yanik
3. Nature Communications, 4, Article number:1467, doi:10.1038/ncomms2475, Carlos Pardo-Martin, Amin Allalou, Jaime Medina, Peter M. Eimon, Carolina Wählby, Mehmet Fatih Yanik


Return to Top



VAST BioImager zebrafish heartbeat analysis using ViewPoint PhenoRack