Whitney Genetics Lab Goes Robotic
BY NICHOLAS BERNDT, WHITNEY GENETICS LABORATORY
The Whitney Genetics Laboratory (WGL) has some new high-tech help on the way. These are in the form of two Eppendorf EpMotion 5075 automated pipetting systems. The machines specialize in performing repetitive lab tasks such as pipetting, mixing, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) plate loading. Though these tasks are simple, they are some of the most important steps in our eDNA workflow.
Each machine has a flexible array of accessories that can be tailored to many lab tasks. These include pipetting from tubes or reagent reservoirs, loading the plates with a sample, and various mixing functions. Protocols for each analysis step can be uploaded and run unsupervised to repeat thousands of times, leaving time for biologists to perform other tasks, such as extraction of DNA.
Each eDNA sampling season, WGL processes thousands of samples through DNA extraction, PCR, and in some cases gene sequencing and gel electrophoresis. In each one of the processing steps, biologists follow the same set of directions for each sample as outlined in the QAPP (Quality Assurance Project Plan). Some steps take longer than others, some require minute amounts of reagent or sample to be dispensed by pipette, and some are highly sensitive to variations in these amounts. The biologists and technicians at WGL are experts in dealing with the high levels of precision and accuracy required to work with such sensitive materials. However there is a limit to how fast one can do this work. The EpMotion machines can do the same work we can, but faster. Take a 384-well plate for example (pictured).
Each well has a tiny diameter of 3.3 millimeters. Now imagine the dexterity and patience it would take to precisely pipette a sample into each of the 384 wells over and over. The EpMotion machines do it very quickly and offer high levels of consistency. This is only one example of how we can apply these machines to our current workflow. We are excited to explore all ways these machines can help us with current protocols and in other applications as we expand our repertoire.