Mineral oil to prevent evaporation for long time course on live cells


Some report using mineral oil to cover the media during long time courses with live cells.
My question is whether the oil is gas permeable ?

Are there any papers comparing gas permeability of different mineral oils ? Or measuring the effect of mineral oil on gas exchange in live cell microscopy ? I couldn’t find any.

Thank a lot

I don’t have any data on gas permeability, but for what it’s worth, we routinely use mineral oil with bicarbonate buffered media and CO2 with no ill effects.

In a setup I’m aware of but have no personal experience with, there will ill effects of covering with mineral oil attributed to lack of gas permeability. See https://valelab4.ucsf.edu/~nstuurman/protocols/diSPIMIncubator/. @nico.stuurman might be able to comment more.

1 Like

My mistake. Probably the gas permeability of the mineral oil actually caused the problems. I’ll update that blog text.

Ok, so we have 2 opposite answers above.

  • Oil is gas permeable
  • Oil is NOT gas permeable

0 voters

Please in the comments below tell us more about experimental setup. And references if possible.

@djc pointed out :



Oxygen diffusion through oil is important in the culture of oocytes and embryos. A diffusion coefficient two orders of magnitude smaller than that of oxygen in water has been thought possible, and this has led to concerns of anoxia in cultures. Using an assay for determining the oxygen consumption rate of embryos and oocytes, along with a mathematical model, it is here shown that the oxygen diffusion rate in paraffin oil at 37 degrees C is about two-thirds of that in water at the same temperature. Although not previously recognised for the assay in question, the geometry is such that anoxia does occur for a period of time in excess of 1 hr and, by the completion of the assay, 30-40% of the medium is anoxic. Hence the quantity of oxygen consumed is less than would be consumed in conditions of plentiful oxygen supply. Nevertheless, using a model with a concentration dependent oxygen consumption rate, the oxygen consumption rate can be estimated.

1 Like

Some people in our institute use mineral oil to cover droplets where mouse oocytes or organoids grow over several days and it seems to work fine.

Might be worth contacting ibidi. They sell an oil specifically for that purpose and can probably answer some of your questions

Website says highly gas permeable, but this will depend on a number of factors of course (which gas, temperature/diffusitivity) etc.

1 Like

Be sure to get mineral oil for use with mouse embryos (I think I used to get it from Sigma, it even said gas permeable in the description I think). Cheers