Biorep Perifusion System Automates Cell Secretion Analysis
"In only three months, Chris Fronda at VI Design Group used LabVIEW and CompactRIO to control a complex automated medical instrument."
- Felipe Echeverri,
Biorep Technologies Inc.
Improving throughput and repeatability in cell secretion analysis, which is routinely conducted with pancreatic islets in type 1 diabetes research.
Creating an automated perifusion system to stimulate different cell types with total environmental control and the ability to collect secretions according to programmable protocols using NI LabVIEW software and CompactRIO hardware.
Biorep Technologies designs the equipment necessary to isolate specific cells in the pancreas (islets of Langerhans cells), which is a complicated process that requires more than 20 different devices, five of which require significant automation. To date, the automation of these machines has been conducted using different platforms and programming languages, such as one for the controller, one for the touch screen, one for the motor drives, and one for stepper drives. As our company expanded, this became problematic because having multiple learning curves, lengthy documentation, and different communication protocols between platforms became inefficient.
After considering the impressive evolution of National Instruments products, we decided to harness the power of LabVIEW graphical system design software for all of our automation, which signified a single platform for most of the applications with only one learning curve and a simplified supply chain. Sophisticated debugging tools and remote troubleshooting features have saved more than $10,000 USD in time and travel costs. Having a LabVIEW platform in place is making a great impact on our efficiency and development capabilities.
In only three months, Chris Fronda at VI Design Group used LabVIEW and CompactRIO to control a complex automated medical instrument that consists of multiaxis motion control (stepper motors), accurate incubator chamber temperature control, and complex fluid handling (electronic valve array control). VI Design Group developed the software architecture using the LabVIEW Real-Time and LabVIEW FPGA modules. The company also used the LabVIEW NI SoftMotion Module (Figure 1) to simulate our system with actual motion profiles, which allowed us to visualize and optimize the design and evaluate different design concepts before incurring the cost of physical prototypes. With LabVIEW and CompactRIO, VI Design Group helped us reduce our development time from 12 to three months and avoided having to develop custom control software and drivers.
Figure 1. SolidWorks XY Mechanism
We initially developed the Biorep Perifusion System (Figure 2) as a tool to test the in-vitro competence of pancreatic islets. Since then, its usefulness has grown to include the measurement of secretions of differentiated cells derived from pancreatic progenitor stem cells.
Figure 2. Biorep Perifusion System
Perifusion has a fundamental advantage over batch incubation when studying the reaction of cells to a stimulant, such as drugs or glucose in the case of diabetes research. In the perifusion system, there is a constant flow of stimulant that washes away any metabolite secreted by the cell or group of cells under study. In batch incubation, these metabolites accumulate and alter the results.
Laboratories have been limited to using batch incubation because more advanced alternatives, such as dynamic measurement, are not practical. Biorep Technologies Inc. and the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami developed an automatic perifusion system that simplifies the process and allows for the stimulation of different cell types with total environmental control and the collection of its secretions according to programmable protocols (Figures 3 and 4). Our perifusion system has proven to be a valuable tool for testing the viability of human pancreatic islets in vitro and before transplantation.
Figure 3. Protocol Monitor Screen
Figure 4. Chamber Positioning
Several laboratories are routinely using this system to study the secretion of hormones from islets cells. However, the Biorep Perifusion System is not restricted to the study of pancreatic islet secretion. Our machine can be used to measure the secretion of other cell types, including single cells such as stem cells. Moreover, it has become an integral part of the drug discovery process in the pharmaceutical industry.
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