Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A new Superpower in the Quest for Healing Medicines

Our family recently grew in size… we got a ridiculously adorable puppy that has been keeping us quite busy, both day and night. Truth be told, he is already doing great on most of the typical puppy problem areas – learning to do “his business” outside, sleeping through the night, crate training, etc. The one area where he is still displaying 100% of his playful puppy nature is his chewing and biting. All four sets of hands in our house have punctures and wounds from his teeny-tiny, razor sharp puppy teeth. As I stare down at my hands, it makes me wish there were better medicines out there for quickly healing all my scratches and bites.

In fact, there is a large field of research tied to this exact area - healing wounds - and, the inverse, keeping cells from migrating. One of the leaders in funding wound healing research is the US Department of Defense. They have a keen interest in finding medicines and drugs to improve healing wounds, which would aid dramatically in medicine for warfare. On the other side, the field of oncology is interested in drugs that keep cells from migrating. Drugs with that behavior, specifically targeted at cancer cells, could help treat cancer metastasis and growth. With any research field, scientists work hard to keep all variables in an experiment as standardized and repeatable as possible. In the area of wound healing, one of the key challenges has been standardizing the size and shape of scratches through a layer of cells, to mimic the look and feel of an actual wound. Many researchers today use standard polypropylene pipette tips to create scratches. These do the job, however the scratches through cell monolayers are quite variable. This can create a huge challenge in measurements since the scratches are highly variable in size and shape, which can lead to a significant amount of noise in the final data.

This is where BioTek’s new AutoScratch Wound Making accessory shines (in my mind I have epic music playing while it flies in, stage left). AutoScratch has one purpose in life – to make beautiful, repeatable, make-scientists-smile-with-delight, 800 micron wide scratches through a cell monolayer in either a 24 or 96 well Corning Costar microplate. The innovativeness of the design means that everything is automated, thus removing all the variability that comes from a user making their own scratches. And, for those scientists who hate cleaning up after themselves (I am one of them)... even the cleaning routine is automated! You just can’t beat that!

Automated wound creation using AutoScratch
Manual wound creation using a pipette tip

After AutoScratch exits, stage right, all that is left for the researcher to do is to add drugs looking for either inhibition or activation of wound healing. At the completion of the assay, BioTek offers a number of intuitive imaging systems that will automate the image capture of all the scratches, and will measure key metrics such as the wound width, wound confluence, and max acceleration rate of the wound closure. As I type these last few sentences - with my battered, puppy-scarred hands - my hope is that one of you reading this will have a moment of enlightenment: "Hey, I could use the AutoScratch to discover new wound healing medicines for people just like him". Maybe, just maybe, the next time my family adopts a puppy, there will be a new medicine on the market that heals puppy bites - all enabled by the AutoScratch, this blog, and your ingenious scientific spirit. Please - my hands beg you - don’t delay!

For more information on AutoScratch click here.

By: BioTek Instruments, Caleb Foster, Product Manager, Development

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