Automate your lab with helpful tools for liquid handling and homogenisation

Thermo Fisher Scientific
Thursday, 10 December, 2020

Automate your lab with helpful tools for liquid handling and homogenisation

Thermo Fisher Scientific provides a range of products designed to increase efficiency in the laboratory.

Liquid handling

It is expensive to move from manual liquid handling to a fully automated system — that’s why Thermo Fisher Scientific offers products to automate steps within the workflow, increasing efficiency without requiring large initial capital outlay. These devices are designed to be faster than manual and even some automated systems to allow more sample processing. All the while you have the ability to automate single parts of the workflow, rather than the whole workflow. This results in a lower initial capital outlay than a fully automated system, making it easier to implement. The products are applicable for many different workflows, enabling a variety of uses and flexibility if a project changes.

For example, the company’s Thermo ScientificTM MultidropTM Pico 8 Digital Dispenser is a non-contact liquid dispenser that enables assay miniaturisation and liquid dispensing down to the picolitre range. The product precisely delivers fluids with CV values of ≤8% for volumes as low as 11 pL into any well of a microplate including 96, 384 and 1536 well plate formats. The non-contact dispense technology removes the risk of contamination of the reagents. Additionally, the dispenser is capable of direct mixing of the dispensed reagents to ensure a homogenous reaction.

The dispenser comes with PicoIT 8 software, which offers a user friendly interface. The software includes pre-set protocol templates made for qPCR layouts or you can simply create a custom protocol using the PCR function. With the pre-set protocol templates, the software guides you through three easy steps: opening a template, customising the template to your specific assay, and finally running your newly developed protocol with the Multidrop Pico 8 Digital Dispenser. In addition, the software automatically generates associated reports in the appropriate format to be imported into the Applied BiosystemsTM QuantStudioTM Real-Time PCR System. The direct importing of the plate layout with the sample information eliminates the additional steps of recreating the plate set-up in the QuantStudio, allowing you to start the qPCR run instantly.

A study by Thermo Fisher Scientific has demonstrated how the digital dispenser and software allow users to easily set up a miniaturised TaqManTM qPCR assay plate with successful amplification of the input cDNA. This is significant given that a common hurdle in setting up TaqMan qPCR assays is ensuring pipetting precision at small reaction volumes; in fact, in many cases of qPCR assay development, scientists settle for a larger reaction volume such as 20 μL because of pipetting errors. Decreasing the qPCR reaction volume while maintaining precision can however improve cost-effectiveness while increasing throughput.

The Multidrop Pico 8 Digital Dispenser and PicoIT 8 software were found to be an ideal solution for preparing a miniaturised qPCR assay. The qPCR assay plate was set up in three steps when using the PicoIT 8 pre-programed protocol template and PCR function features, and it was possible to miniaturise the TaqMan qPCR assay reaction total volume to 5 μL without compromising assay results.

The digital dispenser and software can also titrate the reagents needed for a standard curve and eliminate manual pipetting for serial dilution. The titration is beneficial for accelerating the standard curve preparation process in relative quantitative PCR assays, gene expression assays, primer efficiency validations or PCR efficiency validation. Furthermore, each dilution is generated directly in an individual well with non-contact dispensing technology. This feature reduces the risk of contamination and technical errors that are typically introduced in manual pipetting and serial dilution.

Taken together, the Multidrop Pico 8 Digital Dispenser and PicoIT 8 software provide increased productivity in assay development. They facilitate an accelerated and miniaturised qPCR assay with decreased manual pipetting, reduced reagent amounts and precise results.


Thermo Fisher Scientific also supplies a wide range of homogenisers, such as the Precellys Evolution from Bertin Instruments — a universal tissue homogeniser specially designed for L3 laboratories. An efficient and flexible solution to disrupt samples, it offers optimal robustness and safety and possesses an automatic tube locking system, making it a real push-and-play system. Samples are ready for DNA/RNA analysis via PCR, electrophoresis, liquid chromatography and western blot in about 30 seconds.

Thanks to its different accessories, the device has the capability to process five different sizes of tubes (0.3 mL in well-plate format, plus 0.5, 2, 7 and 15 mL) and up to 24 tubes simultaneously. The optimal efficiency of Precellys Evolution can also be applied to the 96-well plate format thanks to the Precellys Lysing Kit 96WP, an accessory that enables ease of use and better tube positioning. Tubes are individually capped to avoiding any cross-contamination risk and the new matrix has better application coverage.

The Precellys Evolution’s ability to achieve mechanical cell lysis was recently assessed using the ZymoBIOMICSTM Microbial Community Standard from Zymo Research. DNA of the 12 aliquots (75 μL each) of the community standard was extracted using the ZymoBIOMICS DNA Miniprep Kit, and cell lysis was performed using a Precellys Evolution set at maximum speed (10,000 rpm). DNA quantification indicated that efficient cell lysation could be achieved by homogenising cells for just 1 min using the Precellys Evolution, instead of 5 min on other systems.

The original tissue homogeniser in the Precellys range, the Precellys 24, continues to be used by thousands of scientists around the world, thanks to its simplicity and efficiency that makes it most suitable for routine and R&D projects. Like the Precellys Evolution, it is specially designed for L3 laboratories, can homogenise many different samples in 30 seconds and possesses an automatic tube locking system, making the product easy to handle. It can also process up to 24 tubes simultaneously, with the instrument’s 3D motion providing the same high level of energy and homogenisation efficiency to all of the tubes.

Various tests have found that the Precellys 24, the Precellys Evolution and a dedicated Precellys lysing kit can be used to obtain high-quality RNA, which is mandatory to perform RNA sequencing. In experiments conducted at France’s Laboratoire de Biologie et Modélisation de la Cellule (LBMC), researchers used these instruments to achieve very efficient RNA extractions from a half or a whole mouse kidney. Other tests using the Precellys 24 have observed successful RNA extraction from Escherichia coli bacteria, Bacillus globigii spores and dog skin biopsies.

Finally, the Minilys personal homogeniser is a compact and flexible tissue homogeniser designed to meet particular sample preparation needs for laboratories working with biological samples. Offering optimal grinding, lysing and homogenising efficiency, the product is capable of handling 3x 2 mL/0.5 mL tubes or 1x 7 mL tube to process any type of samples. A manual (but not screw-in) locking system makes the Minilys an easy-pick-up laboratory instrument, making it suitable for use in the daily lab workflow. Associated with the appropriate lysing kit, the Minilys can grind difficult samples like grains or hairs.

The use of the Minilys to homogenise tumour samples has proved efficient compared to manual sample preparation. Tests at Liverpool Clinical Laboratories in the UK showed that the processing time was significantly reduced when using Minilys for homogenisation, as well as the post treatment time with Proteinase K (reduced to 1 hour vs overnight for the manual method). The yield of DNA recovery with Minilys was higher in 81% of the samples compared to the manual method. Nine out of eleven samples homogenised by the manual method didn’t exceed a concentration of 15 ng/μL, while the lowest concentration found in samples homogenised by the Minilys was 49 ng/μL. The average DNA yield recovery with the Minilys was also 185.7 ng/μL compared to 26.8 ng/μL for the manual method; therefore, only one sample needed to be treated.

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