Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Love Affair with the Spa; or How I learned to get my Life Back

For a number of years, I have been interested in the mammalian cell cycle. As a graduate student I worked on the relationship between the enzyme HMG CoA reductase and DNA synthesis.  HMG CoA reductase is the rate limiting step for cholesterol biosynthesis. It’s also the enzyme target for statins, which are one of the most prescribed classes of drugs in the US. Later as a post-doc my research focused on the initiation of DNA synthesis.  More recently I have been interested in the effect anti-cancer agents have on cell cycle progression.

What that really means is that I have suffered from sleep deprivation. If you have never worked on the mammalian cell cycle you might not understand the connection between cell cycle research and sleep deprivation. You see while some cells lines have longer cycles and others shorter, the average mammalian cell cycle time is approximately 24 hours long.  If you were interested in some sort of transient cell cycle regulator your experiments often required manual intervention (i.e. reagent addition, aliquot removal, measurement taken etc.) periodically throughout the entire cell cycle. The end result is that for the duration of the experiment, which might be two complete cell cycles, sleep was a commodity in short supply. On a Monday morning my first thought was that I could go to sleep on Thursday!

Sure there was automation available to those that could afford it. Large very expensive robotic systems were the rage for a period of time. Costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, these were just a dream to most researchers. Despite their price tag, most were not a viable option for live cell assays as they were not contained in HEPA filtered sterile environments.        

By now I’m sure you are wondering how this tale of woe is going to end; fortunately there is a happy ending. Much to my relief, BioTek developed the BioSpa 8. A fully functional, environmentally controlled robot that interfaces liquid handing devices with detection devices. Much like Cinderella, this solution fits me just like her glass slipper.  The BioSpa 8 holds up to 8 microplates (6- to 384-well), controls temperature, CO2, O2 and can be also provide a humidified environment in the same way as a conventional tissue culture incubator.  A robotic gripper arm can move plates from the hotel to either a BioTek liquid hander (e.g. MultiFlo FX dispenser, EL406 washer/dispenser, or a 405TS washer) or a BioTek reader (e.g. Cytation 3/5, Synergy Neo2 or an Epoch 2).  By interfacing these two device types with a plate hotel and scheduling software, a multitude of assays can be automated without breaking the bank.  The size of the system is such that it can fit in a 6 foot biosafety cabinet, allowing sterility to be maintained for live cell based assays.

Instead of spending my days and nights in the lab running experiments I can go home knowing that the reagent will get added, the samples will be washed and the plate will read.  Yes I got my life back…

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

1 comment:

  1. Hey Paul,
    Just read your blog about Biosa8. A great product I wish I had during my Ph.D.
    You were fabulous on that video advertisement too.
    Keep up the good work.