Optimising Workflow in the Lab to Achieve Better Results
“Workflow design in a lab depends entirely on the molecules of interest,” says Technical Applications Specialist, Garry Bloomfield of Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a complete range of laboratory products which includes microplate instrumentation — the focus of our discussion here — with a great range of microplate readers for high-level detection of molecules of interest, as well as microplate dispensers for streamlining assay preparation.
Garry explains how automating processes can help improve workflow and streamline results. “Using a microplate dispenser allows a lab technician to perform reactions in 96 to 1,536 well plates in a few minutes. This is a fraction of the time it takes to do manually.”
“This can help to eliminate the element of human error that can occur when you are working with small amounts of samples and dispensing liquids manually,” Garry adds.
Zainab Kadhim, Field Applications Specialist for Thermo Fisher Scientific, also works with customers to design complete workflows for detecting and measuring molecules of interest.
“The type of detection technology a laboratory will require, depends on the required sensitivity of the assay,” she says.
Thermo Fisher Scientific offers three main types of microplate detection technologies:
Photometry measures the amount of visible and/or UV light absorbed by liquid samples, often detecting the molecules that are present by using a coloured agent.
“Photometric microplate readers are most commonly used by clinical labs and universities,” says Zainab. “Though easy to use, the detection ability is not very sensitive.”
Fluorescent detection technology works by adding a fluorescent marker that labels a target molecule or a target reaction and gives off a fluorescent signal when detected.
“Fluorometry is used by research institutes who are working with more complicated molecules,” explains Zainab. “This technology is 1000x more sensitive than Photometry. Allowing you to detect molecules at a much lower level.”
Chemical luminescence detection technology measures the amount of light that is generated as the result of a chemical or biological reaction that gives off light.
“This is a sensitive approach often used in immunology labs and drug screening. Once again, this technology is 1000x more sensitive than Fluorescence,” explains Zainab.
Going with the right workflow
Going with the right workflow will not only streamline your assays, but “minimise human error,” says Zainab. “After we determine the type of technology required for an assay, we take the customer through the setup of our software so that they can get the results that they are trying to achieve.”
Zainab observes that the greatest challenge with detection technology is getting consistent results.
“Different brands of plate readers will generate very different raw results. However, this is to be expected. Every manufacturer will set up and calibrate their plate reader differently.”
The key, says Zainab, is “as long as you have appropriate standards and controls you will see the same patterns; you can draw clear, comparable results even if the technology does not give the same raw results. At Thermo Fisher Scientific, we help make sure our customers understand how to interpret their results.”
For many specific assays, Thermo Fisher Scientific offers complete workflow solutions.
“Assay kits are commercially available for many molecules of interest,” says Garry. “These are designed for a specific application and have everything ready to go,” he adds further. “Then a customer can choose to semi-automate their setup with an electronic pipette or dispenser or add samples and reagents manually.”
Garry furthers, “Sometimes a customer may want to design and develop their own assay and workflows completely from scratch. As an added value for customers, we offer internal tools for designing a laboratory and laying it out as a 3D virtual environment.”
“We try to have a conversation with every customer up front, so that we can help create a complete solution for them,” Garry concludes.
Thermo Fisher Scientific has technical specialists like Zainab and Garry across many fields of research and specialisations to help determine what is required on each individual application and provide customers with better workflow solutions.
Originally published here.
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