The human genome has been decoded. Of all the puzzles it contains, though, many remain unsolved. We know that the genome provides the blueprint for various proteins, the building blocks of each and every cell. But what role do they play? Which proteins control cell division in a healthy body, for instance? And what takes place in tumor tissue in which cells incessantly subdivide and control over proteins gets out of hand?
To get to the bottom of the functioning of various proteins, researchers start by cultivating cell cultures. They add a few cells to a petri dish, add nutrient and regularly check for resulting cell growth. Once suitable colonies of cells have taken hold, the researcher uses a pipette to transfer these to a new vessel where investigation of the cells can continue. To date, for the most part researchers have had to carry out these steps by hand in time-consuming routine work. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart, at the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM in Freiburg and at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT in Sankt Augustin have now teamed up with colleagues at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden to create a system that completely automates the process of cultivating cells.
The device consists of an array of modules: One of these is a robot that transports the vessels containing the cell cultures, known as multititer plates, from one place to the next. Dr. Albrecht Brandenburg, group manager at IPM describes another module: "A microscope regularly inspects the cells to assess the status and growth of the cultures. It transfers the s.o. plates to the microscope stage, focuses, switches lenses and activates the light sources it needs. The entire optical system is designed to withstand and operate in the high-humidity conditions the cells require. The results of microsc
|Contact: Dr. Albrecht Brandenburg |