Thursday, February 22, 2018

Hooke and van Leeuwenhoek would be amazed!

The microscope was invented 400 years ago, and wow, has it changed over the centuries! Today, there are many inverted digital widefield microscopes available, with functionality that enables brightfield imaging to multi-channel fluorescence imaging. Most of these use the same basic design and are useful for many manual microscopy tasks, with automation is typically available through add-on modules.

BioTek’s new Lionheart™ LX Automated Microscope brings a new perspective to automated imaging. It is designed with affordability in mind, offering an alternative to expensive, custom-built automated microscopes that can be complex to learn and use.

Along with Gen5™ software, Lionheart LX enables Augmented Microscopy™ to fully automate image capture, processing and analysis which can help increase your research output.

Read some of latest Application Notes to learn more about how Lionheart Automated Microscopes can automate a variety of microscopy workflows.

By: BioTek Instruments, Lenore Buehrer, Senior Product Marketing Manager

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Imaging Perspectives 2018 – A BioTek Imaging Competition

In 1665, the scientific community was astounded by Robert Hooke’s publication of Micrographia which contained drawings of what he had seen with the aid of his new invention, the microscope. Of particular interest and no doubt a bit of horror was his drawing of a flea, which at the time plagued most of the population which generally thought bathing harmful to health.

The flea, from Robert Hooke's Micrographia (1665)

Optical microscopy has come a long way in the 350 years since Hooke’s microscope provided a thirty-fold magnification of the specimen. Many different microscopy modes are now available that employ enhanced contrast of specimen’s features relative to Hooke’s simple brightfield microscope, including phase contrast, DIC, fluorescence and digital capture of images which allows specimens to be magnified over a thousand-fold. These improvements open up new vistas for scientists, allowing them to visualize the microscopic world.

BioTek would like to see and celebrate these new vistas by holding an imaging competition which we call Imaging Perspectives 2018. Enter up to three images taken with the Cytation or Lionheart Imager for a chance to win cash prizes and to have your image featured in BioTek’s 2019 wall calendar. For uploading instructions and contest rules, visit

By: BioTek Instruments, Peter Banks Ph.D., Scientific Director

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Douglas Adams was right all along

First, a little background. As a teenager (eons ago) I was a fan of British comedy. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was my introduction to this genre, but soon my friends and I were watching, reading, listening to, and discussing Red Dwarf, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, and by extension Doctor Who to name a few. When Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series was aired on the BBC and released as a book shortly thereafter it was added to the menu. It should be noted that this was before the age of the internet so access to this content was not as easy as it is today.

While The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy got its start as a British Pop culture comedy, it has become international sensation over the years, with the books being translated in over thirty languages. The central theme to the story is that race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who built a computer named Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. When the answer was revealed to be 42, there was a problem in that no one knew what the question was. To those who have read the books I will not belabor the plot and to those who have not read them I will not spoil it.

The story: What is amazing is that Science alert website posted an alert about a group at the University of Toronto in Canada trying to ascertain the number of protein molecules in a cell published in Cell Systems. Proteins are molecules that do the majority of the work in cells. Because the cell’s proteome is dynamically changing in response to the environment and stress, it is very difficult to actually pin down the number of protein molecules in a single cell. Using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model the group looked at data from 21 separate analyses to estimate that there were 5,858 different proteins in an average yeast cell. The abundance of the different proteins is not evenly distributed, with most having between 1,000 and 10,000 molecules while others might have only 10 copies and a few having as many as 500,000. The total number however was on average 4.2 x 107 (42 million) molecules. Douglas Adams must have known all along. Human cells are more complex and most likely will have a greater number. Hopefully, the answer won’t take as the 7.5 million years that it took Deep Thought to work out the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life.

By: BioTek Instruments, Paul Held, PhD., Laboratory Manager

Monday, January 22, 2018

Government Shutdown Effects on Life Science Research

The US Government shutdown has widespread ramifications that go beyond the unfortunate government employees considered non-essential who will be out of a job until Congress decides to re-fund the Government. A good example is in life science research. With the Government shutdown, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have had to furlough much of their staff: for the NIH and the CDC, this amounts to about ¾ of their employees. Depending on how long the shutdown extends, this can affect academics waiting to hear of NIH grant awards as these agencies control all aspects of awarding and dispersing grants. Perhaps more dire from an economic perspective is that when NIH and CDC researchers are not in their labs, the industry that supports their work with consumables, reagents and instrumentation will be adversely affected. Please Congress, come to an agreement for funding our Government!

By: BioTek Instruments

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

NADH Analysis Just Got a Lot Easier!

The next generation 800™ TS Absorbance Reader was recently introduced in a previous blog posting. The many enhancements to both hardware and software were designed to simplify workflows for many of the most commonly performed assays. Assays such as ELISA, UV-absorption and colorimetric absorbance are performed in a variety of laboratory settings ranging from basic research in academic labs to clinical laboratory testing.

A long studied enzyme family found in a diverse range of organisms includes a group of alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes (ADH) which are responsible for interconversion between alcohols and aldehydes or ketones. The enzymatic catalysis of alcohol requires the reduction of the cofactor nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) to the reduced form NADH or the reverse chemical process for the formation of alcohol.


The spectral properties of the reduced form NADH, show an absorption peak at 340 nm providing a simple method to monitor progression of a reaction.  The enzymatic activity of ADH from S. cerevisiae was determined for the two alcohols, ethanol and 2-propanol, by obtaining kinetic absorbance measurements at 340 nm. Reaction velocities were calculated using Gen5™ Data Analysis software; Michaelis-Menten and Lineweaver Burk plots were generated to determine K­m and Vmax for each reaction.

These and similar experiments are made simple by the capabilities of the new, easy-to-use 800 TS. The 800 TS brings excellent performance, high quality and value to many laboratories. It's no wonder that BioTek continues to be the most trusted and well-known name in microplate readers and other life science instrumentation.

By: BioTek Instruments, Peter J. Brescia Jr., MSc, MBA

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

BioTek Unveils Next-Gen Plate Reader and Washer

In 1995, I started my career with BioTek. I had just graduated with a degree in a Clinical Laboratory Science and was hired as a Service Engineer in BioTek's Technical Assistance Center. The job's primary focus was helping customers program, utilize and maintain their microplate readers and washers. Since I was trained as a Medical Technologist, I had a fair amount of experience with ELISA instrumentation. I had actually used a BioTek EL312 plate reader in my clinical rotations. I recall being very impressed by the automation and speed the reader gave us with its ability to process several samples at a time, compared to my experience with a manual cuvette spectrophotometer.

The year I started working at BioTek, we launched the ELx800 Microplate Absorbance Reader and shortly thereafter, the ELx50 Automated Strip Washer. This pair of workhorses had been entirely re-imagined from predecessors like my EL312 back in school. With sleek hardware profiles, powerful data reduction and easy to use interfaces, these products were cutting-edge. As the years went by and I transitioned to Product Management, I always found the variety and increasing number of assays customers ran on the instruments fascinating – from human and veterinary diagnostics to food safety testing and all areas of research.

Now more than 20 years later and nearly 50,000 installations around the world, BioTek has once again unveiled a next generation. The new 800 TS Absorbance Reader and 50 TS Washer have been redesigned for today’s busy labs and individualized workflows, complete with color touch screens and USB flash drives for convenient data export. Just like the ELx800 and ELx50, the new instruments offer high reliability, excellent performance and ease-of-use – all at an affordable price! After almost 50 years, BioTek products are still manufactured in Vermont, USA to the highest standards. I was lucky to have found this employer many years ago and am proud of the high quality products we continue to produce.

800 TS Absorbance Reader and 50 TS Washer
800 TS Absorbance Reader and 50 TS Washer

To celebrate the 800 TS and 50 TS launch, BioTek has just announced a giveaway contest for our thousands of loyal customers around the world. Do you have an ELx800 or ELx50 in your lab? If so, we want to thank you for making us the most trusted name in plate readers and washers. We would love to hear about how you use these instruments and how long they have been on your bench. All you need to do is visit and tell us your story by October 31, 2017. You could win a brand new 800 TS and 50 TS for your lab!

Microplate Reader and Washer Giveaway

By, BioTek Instruments, Jason Greene, Senior Product Marketing Manager

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Performance of Image-Based Label-Free Tracking and Quantification of T-Cell Activation for Use in Cancer Immunotherapy Applications

Interest in cancer immunotherapy research has dramatically increased in recent years, due to the success of a variety of therapies now available, including:
  • cancer vaccines
  • antibodies or other proteins used to either stimulate or block immune checkpoint pathways
  • cells from a patient's own immune system (natural killer or T-cells)
One particular area of interest is the use of activated T-cells to target particular cancers. This has led to unprecedented results where 94% of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) saw symptoms completely disappear in one study and > 80% of blood cancer patients experienced remission in a second study1. The process involves removing a portion of the patient’s peripheral blood, isolating the T-cells, activating and expanding the isolated cells, and finally reintroducing them back into the patient2.

A critical part of the process is the directed activation and expansion of isolated T-cells. Following antigen binding, as the cells become activated, increased proliferative rates are exhibited and are visualized as aggregates in a clustering effect within the well3. To properly track and quantify these phenotypic changes, cell imaging is essential. The brightfield channel of BioTek’s Cytation Cell Imaging Multi-Mode Reader allows for label-free monitoring of T-cell activation. When integratedas part of the BioSpa Live Cell Imaging System, the results from multi-day activation experiments can be easily quantified.

In the experiment below isolated T-cells were placed into wells of a 24-well plate at a concentration of 100,000 cells per well in the presence of anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 antibodies, plus varying concentrations of an IL-2 Superkine (AdipoGen Life Sciences).

250 ng/mL anti-CD3/250 ng/mL anti-CD28/ 100 ng/mL IL-2 Superkine

3MB - 250 ng/mL anti-CD3/250 ng/mL anti-CD28/ 0 ng/mL IL-2 Superkine

Higher levels of cell proliferation, as indicated by an increase in dark, highly confluent areas within the image, are observed when the cells are in the presence of the antibodies and IL-2 superkine, compared to antibodies alone.

Quantification of activation can also be achieved through determination of the level of confluency and area covered by cell aggregates.

T-Cell Activation

The results validate the ability of BioTek’s instrumentation to be used for this critical step of the T-cell immunotherapy process.

  1. Yuhas, A. Cancer researchers claim 'extraordinary results' using T-cell therapy. The Guardian, [Online] Feb 15, 2016. (accessed Jul 14, 2017). 
  2. Topalian, S.L.; Weiner, G.J.; Pardoll, D.M. Cancer immunotherapy comes of age. J Clin Oncol. 2011, 29, 4828–4836. 
  3. Purtic, B.; Pitcher, L.A.; van Oers, N.S.C.; W├╝lfing, C. T cell receptor (TCR) clustering in the immunological synapse integrates TCR and costimulatory signaling in selected T cells. PNAS. 2005, 102(8), 2904-2909. 

By: BioTek Instruments, Brad Larson, Principal Scientist