An example: A computer program assesses the microscope images and checks to determine how densely the surface of the vessel is already covered in cells. If suitable cell colonies have formed, another module, a hollow needle, picks cells ranging between 100 and 200 micrometers in size and transfers them to a new container. System users can train the software responsible for this pattern recognition and thus for identifying the cells themselves as such: in the case of new cell types, they can define sample areas as foregrounds and backgrounds. In subsequent worksteps, the system then identifies the cell type automatically.
Large enough to fill a small lab, the device was recently set up at the Max Planck Institute. There, it will help researchers decode the functions of various proteins. Scientists inject cells with the segment of the human genome that delivers the blueprint for the proteins under investigation. The location in the cell at which the proteins are later found gives clues as to the proteins` respective functions. The system achieves a throughput of 500 cell cultures each month. The cell factory can be adapted for use in other applications as well: For instance, it can help test the effectiveness of various drugs. Because the system is modular, researchers in science and industry can also opt to automate just certain of the steps involved.
|Contact: Dr. Albrecht Brandenburg |