Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Growing Innovative Problem-Solvers

Last month, we celebrated BioTek Instruments50th birthday with a party inviting employees and their families.

Families were able to see all the cool things that go on in our facility and gain a better understanding of why their family member gets excited about such topics like faster dispense rates, CMOS cameras, mechanical drift, or even zebrafish. If that was not impressive enough, the very large CNC machines that messily spray fluid around and then spit out a perfectly engineered shiny new part certainly was “icing on the cake”. Nevertheless, we made sure to have ice cream just in case.

BioTek Party gifts

While all of these things were very impressive, every kid knows no birthday party is complete without a good present! Kids who attended this birthday party really scored big here with a Tinker Crate from KiwiCo. If you have not seen these crates in action or heard about them, you really should check them out. Kiwi Co. explains their mission is to provide opportunities and possibilities for kids to “tinker” and “gain the skills and confidence to tackle problems where there is not one right answer”. These crates provide a hands-on project that gives kids a chance to build a tool that supports innovative thinking related to science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) skills, necessary for innovative problem solving.

Problem solving

This got me to thinking about the message this gift sent to our families: a demonstrated commitment to growing scientific thinkers. Not only do we want to provide innovative tools that help our customers unlock the mysteries of life, now we are doing this for the next generation of problem solvers.

By: BioTek Instruments, Debbie Deale, M&S Product Training Manager

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Life (sciences) can’t exist in a vacuum

Every December for the past several years, I have rolled up my freshly printed poster and jetted off to an annual international meeting of cell biologists. The location changes each year from a short list of enjoyable U.S. cities – a few of which even provide some welcome relief from a New England winter. Regardless of where they are held, the unique value of these meetings is that they bring together people with diverse backgrounds and expertise who share a passion for the life sciences

Although I am partial to my meeting of cell biologists, there are conferences like this held throughout the year, each serving a relatively broad research community (neuroscientists, biophysicists, etc.). For many who attend such a gathering, it is likely their one opportunity of the year to meet in person with their collaborators. As connected as our technology allows us to be, in terms of strengthening collaborations and furthering innovative ideas, there is no substitute for getting a bunch of scientists talking around a poster session or huddled over a table at the local pub.

Earlier this month, BioTek Instruments hosted its own international scientific meeting for the annual training of our Field Application Scientists (FAS) and Product Specialists. This year, 37 BioTek scientists from 20 different countries joined us at our headquarters in Winooski, Vermont for a week focused on new life science instruments and applications. In addition to providing vital, hands-on training, this meeting enables the FAS team to come together and share with all of us at BioTek headquarters, the unique insights they have gained from the field. While we are constantly developing and improving application solutions here in Vermont, our FAS members are walking into labs around the world, working with researchers in diverse fields to understand their research goals and to facilitate their scientific discoveries.

The tangible benefits of bringing this group of dedicated scientists together are numerous. Many of us collaborate on projects from afar throughout the year, but the opportunity to work in person with our international colleagues – to bring these diverse perspectives into the same room – is inspiring as well as informative. I look forward to next year’s event to continue the illuminating discussions and to further strengthen our global connections to our FAS Team and customers.

FAS meeting
Field Application Scientists Meeting, Spring 2018

By: BioTek Instruments, Joe Clayton, PhD., Principal Scientist

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Reflection on the Last 50 Years

My father, Norman Alpert, fought in the Philippines during WWII. There he contracted hepatitis, barely surviving the nearly three years of hospitalization that followed. Later he studied to become a scientist, acquiring a PhD in Physiology from Columbia, and then became a world-renowned expert in heart disease. In his spare time, he started a small life science company, BioTek Instruments, that later blossomed into a multi million-dollar global enterprise; all the while raising three kids with his loving wife Laurel, and residing in what was at that time the rural outskirts of Chittenden County, Vermont.

Dad was also a romantic in the sense that he viewed science and technology as a vehicle to achieve a more renaissance appreciation of the world we live in. For Dad, the pursuit of knowledge/truth, that was paramount. The process as opposed to the end-result was his focus.

Dad used to say “Onward and upward”, an insight that has influenced my own enthusiasm for attempting hard things. Ever the optimist, he was propelled to move forward and do better.

BioTek's success and 50th year celebration derives from my father’s many direct contributions to the business, but it also is a reflection of his leadership; the ability to cultivate a nurturing culture, one where identifying and realizing individual potential is paramount. Despite the many challenging moments during the company's 50 year history, Dad's ability to foster vision, confidence, and a genuine team spirit while inspiring all to be more creative, thoughtful, caring, and just generally better at what they do is what made BioTek the great company it is today.

Norman Alpert was not just a survivor, loving husband, father of three kids, and founder of a great company, but he was also a truly outstanding role model; a man who demonstrated aspirational leadership throughout his lifetime. We should all wish to have someone so well poised alongside.

By: BioTek Instruments, Adam Alpert, Vice President

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Too Much or not Enough: Imaging Blood Vessel Growth and Regression in Zebrafish Embryos

Blood vessel growth, otherwise known as angiogenesis, is a central feature of embryonic development. If the vasculature system does not form properly it’s "game over" for the embryo. Blocking angiogenesis leads to impairment of development and ultimately death. Proper assembly of the circulatory system is critical for survival of an organism, as a functional vascular system is necessary to supply nutrients and oxygen to tissue and efficiently remove metabolic byproducts.

In the adult, angiogenesis is limited to particular instances such as hair growth, ovarian and endometrial cycles, and wound healing. However, angiogenesis is also associated with a number of pathologies including cancer, inflammation, and ischemic heart disease. In 1971 Judah Folkman, now known as the father of angiogenesis, discovered that blood vessel growth is a vital process for the survival and proliferation of solid tumors. Without a properly functioning vasculature system, tumors will cease to grow; thus, the aim of certain cancer therapeutics is to block tumor angiogenesis. However, in cases such as tissue repair after ischemic injury, the goal is to induce blood vessels to grow into the damaged area. Proper angiogenesis is a sometimes a precarious balancing act between too much and not enough.

The discovery of mechanisms behind blood vessel formation and regression is essential for cancer (and other) therapeutics. Zebrafish embryos are a great model for studying and imaging angiogenesis due to their small size, optical clarity, and the similarity of their vascular system to that of humans. (Yes, you are a lot more similar to a zebrafish than you might think!). The movies shown below highlight the difference between normal vascular development in a 1 day old zebrafish (Movie 1) with that of a zebrafish embryo treated with the angiogenic inhibitor SU5416 (Movie 2). SU5416 acts by inhibiting vascular endothelial growth receptor (VEGFR) and as you can see in Movie 2, vascular growth is restricted in this embryo. Zebrafish tail vasculature is marked with kdrl:mcherry, and these images were taken on the Cytation™ 5 as 10x stacks taken every 45 minutes for 24 hours.


Movie 1: Unperturbed zebrafish angiogenesis


Movie 2: Zebrafish treated with 2.5 ug/mL SU5416

By: BioTek Instruments, Sarah Beckman, PhD., Microscopist

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


What do you see in the images below? They’re both black and white images that have a three-dimensional effect but they were taken by different means - one by 3D ultrasound and the other by z-stack microscopy.

With regards to the the image on the left, the left half is a bit obstructed but you should be able to pick out two eyes, a nose and lips. This is a 3D ultrasound of my baby’s face at 33 weeks of gestational age. I can already see which features come from mom and which ones come from dad. Knowing nothing about 3D ultrasound technology, I imagined it to be similar to acquiring a z-projected image using BioTek’s Lionheart Automated Microscope (an example is the image on the right, of zebrafish embryos taken at 4x with brightfield and GFP fluorescence.) Simply put, lots of images taken across multiple planes which is reconstructed to give you a representative image. Let’s see if I’m correct!

3D Ultrasound


Sample Image
3D Ultrasound
GE Volusion
BioTek Lionheart
Display, transducer probe, piezoelectric crystals
Display, CMOS camera, objective, LED light source, filters
High frequency sound waves
Fluorescent light
Ultrasound gel
Air, oil or water
  1. The transducer probe, which houses piezoelectric crystals, sends millions of sound waves per second across multiple planes
  2. Sound waves travel through the gel and into the body, hitting various boundaries of differing mechanical properties and distances
  3. Reflected sound waves are picked up by the piezoelectric crystals in the probe
  4. Dense tissues show as very bright white dots, soft tissue show as gray dots, while fluids do not reflect and show up black on the display
  1. LED light passes through an excitation filter then the objective to the sample.
  2. If the sample fluoresces, the emitted light passes through the objective and emission filter to the CMOS camera
  3. The same region of interest is imaged at up to 50 different planes to create a z-stack
  4. In each slice, the greater the fluorescence emission, the whiter the pixel appears on the display
2D multi-planar data (e.g. distance from the probe and mechanical properties) are  used for surface rendering, multiplanar reformatting or volume rendering to produce a 3D image shown on the display
Each pixel position across each slice of the z-stack are processed via an averaging, standard deviation or focus stacking algorithm (to name a few) to produce a single z-projected image shown on the display

So it’s similar…but different. And, just like an ultrasound picture, a microscope image has a technical component and can even invoke emotion and spark the imagination.

If you’ve ever taken an image using BioTek’s Cytation or Lionheart imager that has taken a life of its own, why not submit it to our imaging competition and win some cash? Show off your image like a proud parent!

By: BioTek Instruments, Ellaine Abueg Ph.D., Product Manager, Development

Friday, April 27, 2018


Say what?

The title word of this blog is ‘annotation’, and the cryptic phonetic spelling was chosen as a means of defining the word itself. In this case, the title benefits from “a note of explanation or comment added”. Most people, for example, appreciate annotation when viewing modern art, as the art tends not to be a literal translation of the message the artist is intending to convey. Scientific images often fall into this category as well. Even an expert in the field may not immediately recognize what a microscopic image represents, or more importantly, what is significant about it.

Annotation tools available in BioTek Gen5 Image Analysis Software were designed to resolve this problem. Shapes, arrows, text, and line measurements can be overlaid onto a microscopy image by simply clicking an icon. Features include the ability to cut, paste, duplicate, or move annotation forward or backward on an image, increasing the customization of the final presentation. The annotations can then be saved with the image for publication or reporting purposes. The application of some of these tools is shown below on an image of cytomegalovirus permissive human fibroblast cells stained using Direct Immunofluorescence Assay (DFA) to immediate early antigen. The image was captured using a BioTek Lionheart FX Automated Imager.

Intranuclear viral inclusion

By: BioTek Instruments, Wendy Goodrich, Applications Scientist

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A New Integrated Metabolic Analysis and Imaging Platform

The theme at this year’s American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting (April 14-18) in Chicago is “Driving Innovative Cancer Science to Patient Care”. At the meeting, Agilent Technologies and BioTek Instruments will launch a new integrated solution combining the two companies’ cellular metabolic analysis and imaging technologies.

Agilent’s Seahorse XFe Analyzers simultaneously measure the two major cellular energy-producing pathways, mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis in live cells and in real time. These measurements help scientists better understand the connection between cellular physiological processes and genomic and proteomic data applicable in a variety of applications including cancer research. Cancer cells reprogram their metabolism in order to generate the energy and building blocks they need to proliferate. XF technology provides a window into the Warburg effect, fuel usage and other events that drive tumor cell biology.

For years, Agilent customers have requested an optimized method for verifying assay results and enabling more meaningful data comparisons. BioTek’s Cytation 1 is a cell imaging multi-mode reader offering high contrast brightfield and fluorescence microscopy with up to 60x magnification. When a Cytation is integrated together with an Agilent Seahorse XF Analyzer, the combined platform enables cell biology researchers to fully normalize and analyze samples to answer challenging questions regarding cellular metabolism. Applying a cell count based normalization value makes interpreting XF data and finding relationships amongst the data easier. The integrated solution provides the ability to compare XF data on a well-to-well, plate-to-plate and experiment-to-experiment basis. The ability to incorporate high-quality imagery within Agilent’s Seahorse XF WAVE software adds another dimension to the data. Now researchers can toggle between XF data, brightfield images and fluorescence images in a unified software experience. Referencing images while analyzing XF data provides evidence and guidance on how to limit variability and improve the reproducibility of their XF assays.

The Agilent BioTek collaboration brings to cellular analysis a standardized approach for comparing Seahorse XF data sets and improving assay workflow. For information on the XF Imaging and Normalization System visit www.agilent.com/en/products/cell-analysis/seahorse-xf-imaging-normalization-solution. For information on Cytation 1 Imagers visit www.biotek.com/cytation1.

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