Tuesday, August 14, 2018

AMX™ Automated Media Exchange Module: A New Tool to Simplify Gentle Media Exchanges for Unattached Spheroid Cell Models

It has been widely proven that culturing cells in a three-dimensional (3D) format gives rise to increased cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions and also promotes more biosimilar cell morphologies and behaviors compared to cells cultured on flat 2D surfaces. As such, 3D cell models are being used with increasing frequency for long-term experiments to better mimic in vivo chronic dosing of a test molecule, and in higher density microplate formats to increase throughput. Media exchange and re-dosing steps are critically important during these tests to remove spent media and add fresh media or media with a test molecule. Due to simplicity of cell aggregation and replicate reproducibility, one of the most popular 3D cell culture methods incorporated into long-term test procedures involves the creation of unattached spheroids in media at the bottom of a round-bottom microplate coated to prevent cell attachment. However, with models such as these, care must be taken not to evacuate or damage the spheroid within each well during the exchange process. This can create aspirate and dispense steps that are time consuming and stressful, and can still yield lost spheroids, leading to the loss of critical data.

To alleviate this problem, BioTek has developed a novel peristaltic pump-based automated media exchange method. The AMX™ Automated Media Exchange module for the MultiFlo™ FX uses both available peristaltic pumps, one to dispense and one to aspirate media from the plate wells (Figure 1). The instrument is then programmed to perform the exchange process in a controlled manner that is optimized for the cell type and spheroid size used in each experiment.

MultiFlo FX AMX
Figure 1. MultiFlo FX Multi-Mode Dispenser equipped with the AMX Automated Media Exchange module,
showing aspirate (right arrow) and dispense (left arrow) heads.

During the aspiration step, tubes are positioned to the right of the well center and slightly elevated from the bottom. This allows for only a small residual volume to remain in the well, while ensuring that the spheroid itself is undisturbed (Figure 2).

To replace the removed media in 96-well plates, tubes are again positioned to the right of the well center and slightly elevated from the bottom (Figure 3). For 384-well format, tubes are positioned directly over the spheroid due to the smaller diameter of the well.

These combined aspiration and dispense steps create a method to gently replace spent media either in a single aspirate/dispense procedure for spheroid proliferation assays, or in a multi-step procedure for spheroid washing following fluorescent probe addition or as part of an immunofluorescence staining process.

We invite you to learn more about the AMX module, in addition to the qualitative and quantitative experiments performed to validate its use with multiple cell models and plate types by attending the upcoming webinar:

September 19, 2018
For more information and to register, click here.

By: BioTek Instruments, Brad Larson, Principal Scientist

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Trading In…or Trading Up?

At home, we’ve been considering trading in our well-loved, well-used, well-running, but old (and lacking up to date technology) vehicle for something newer, easier to operate and with as much of the latest technology as possible within our budget. It’s a tough decision, especially since it still works!

But, we’ll soon find out what the trade-in value is, and probably apply the trade-in value toward a new(er) car, but with improved functionality and useful features to meet our needs.

Many BioTek customers are facing a similar decision today…whether to keep using their old, but still working ELx405™ in the laboratory, or to make the important choice to trade it in toward the purchase of BioTek’s latest technology in microplate washing, the 405™ TS. To make this choice easier, we’re offering ELx405 customers nearly 25% off the purchase of a new 405 TS when they trade in their well-loved, well-used, old, but still working (or not!) ELx405!

405 TS Washer
The 405 TS has many of the same features as the beloved ELx405, but has been updated to meet today’s demanding plate washing workflows, with great benefits including an easy-to-use (even with gloves!) large color touchscreen with intuitive onboard software, patented Ultrasonic Advantage™ for automated manifold cleaning, automated 4-buffer switching and so much more.

Maybe it is time to take advantage of a trade-in offer, and trade up to the 405 TS.

Learn more about this exciting trade-in offer here.

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

When will the next big one hit?

Most people feel that the ground that they walk on is a constant. The term “Terra Firma” expounds this belief that the ground is ever stable. Depending on where you live, this is quite true or not so much. We now know that the earth’s outer crust is a series of plates that float on a bed of molten magna and in doing so bump and grind against themselves. There are regions where one plate is diving downward under another, call subduction zones and other areas where two plates are moving laterally. The common feature that the regions all have are earthquakes. Periods where Terra Firma shakes and moves with a tremendous release of energy such that buildings fall and the land is rearranged. These tremors have terrified humankind since the beginning of civilization.

With the advancement of science, we have learned the cause of these titanic events and have worked to try to predict and measure these events. The most common tool are seismometers, which measures the movement of the earth’s crust locally. There sensitivity is such that the epicenter location of earthquakes can be determined and their strength reported as a number on the Richter magnitude scale.

Figure 1. Seismograph tracings from Mexico City around the time of winning goal being scored.
Mother Nature is not the only thing that can cause the Earth to shake. The advent of nuclear weapons has resulted in explosive devices that are detected by the same seismographs that would normally detect Earthquakes. Human activity such as fracking and drilling wastewater disposal, where fluids are injected into the ground to assist the collection of subterranean oil and gas deposits, has resulting in the ground shifting in areas that historically have never had tremors. The state of Oklahoma for example now has more earthquakes than California. Most recently, a potentially human caused tremor was recorded in Mexico City. While not a true Earthquake, some suggest that the Hirving Lozano’s 35th-minute goal in Mexico’s upset victory against defending champion Germany in the 2018 World Cup was the cause. No damage has been reported from the artificial earthquake and Mexico fans are expected to continue celebrating through next week when they face the next round of group stage matches. Mexico will play against South Korea on June 23 at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Now if only the US could manage to qualify we might have our own Earthquake.

By: BioTek Instruments, Paul Held PhD, Laboratory Manager

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Why so Difficult?

How often have you struggled with a microwave oven you were not familiar with? Maybe at a friend’s place, or at work… Isn’t it amazing how simple tasks become difficult when the interface is not intuitive?

Two weeks ago, I was parking downtown to go to a restaurant with some work guests. We walked to the parking meter and I felt like I was taking an IQ test with three people looking over my shoulder as I was trying to figure out how to pay for parking – I ended up paying until 2 AM by accident! Once, while visiting Amsterdam, I came back to my car blocked with a parking boot after struggling with the parking meter for 10 minutes – talk about a frustrating user experience!

Simple tasks should be easy to accomplish. In the life science world, using a microplate reader should be as simple as walking to the device with your microplate, loading it, starting the read process, getting your data, and done, end-off! Unfortunately, multi-mode microplate readers today are so versatile that simplicity can get lost. Each development iteration adds more hardware features, more software functionality, to a point where running bread and butter assays such as total protein quantification, nucleic acid quantification or ELISA requires taking a number of unnecessary, sometimes complicated steps.
Synergy™ LX Multi-Mode Reader

This is why BioTek developed, the just-launched, Synergy™ LX Multi-Mode Reader. Synergy LX is designed for all the typical microplate-based assays, without the complexity often found in multi-mode plate readers. With absorbance, fluorescence and luminescence detection, a large touch screen, simple interface and USB thumb drive, Synergy LX is the “touch and go” solution for simple multi-detection. And best of all, with Synergy LX, simplicity means budget-friendly!

Don’t struggle with an overly complicated microplate reader.

To learn more on Synergy LX, visit: https://www.biotek.com/synergylx.

By: BioTek Instruments, Xavier Amouretti, Manager, Product Marketing

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Comparison of Applications Coverage: BioSpa vs. IncuCyte

Cellular Imaging is an indispensable tool for cell biologists. While the inherent magnification allows researchers to visualize cells, its true utility comes post image capture deploying image analysis that allows for the quantification of cellular processes. The researcher is faced with many choices of which quantitative imager to choose from, but it essentially comes down to which product is easiest to use, provides the best performance and covers more of the applications of concern, thus broadening the imager’s utility.

Essen’s IncuCyte® is a useful imager for live cell imaging and provides adequate performance for a number of applications. As an example, the IncuCyte® can perform cell proliferation, cytotoxicity, apoptosis and scratch assays, all characterized by slow kinetics requiring only hourly imaging to capture the processes occurring. Yet it is unable to capture fast kinetic processes, such as calcium flux within cells or track second messenger induction from GPCR activation, where the biology is over in seconds. Nor is IncuCyte® suitable for high resolution phenotypic assays such as autophagy applications that require counting autophagosomes per cell as magnification is relatively limited. While IncuCyte® can monitor spheroid proliferation, image analysis can be compromised by an inability to capture sharp images of the thick biology using z-stacking techniques. Finally, the IncuCyte® is unsuitable for fixed cell assays, such as immunofluorescence, fluorescence in-situ hybridization or histology.

Each of these limitations and all of IncuCytes’s capabilities are covered by the BioSpa™ Live Cell Imaging System. The following table illustrates the diverging applications coverage between BioSpa Live Cell Imaging System and IncuCyte®.

 BioSpa Live Cell 
 Imaging System
  Slow kinetic assays   Slow kinetic assays
    Cell proliferation     Cell proliferation
    Cytotoxicity     Cytotoxicity
    Apoptosis     Apoptosis
    Scratch assay     Scratch assay
  Immunofluorescence   Immunofluorescence
    Any cellular protein     Only cell surface protein
  3D cell culture assays   3D cell culture assays
    Z-stacking/Z-projection     No Z-stacking/Z-projection
  Whole organisms
    C. Elegans
  High resolution phenotypic assays
   Mitochrondrial membrane potential

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

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