The word “automation” conjures up images of the future complete with robot butlers and flying cars, but the reality is that automation is here now, and it can change your everyday life in a big way. In the lab, automated instruments have already impacted how we use common techniques like PCR and sequencing. Today new systems that automate many of the epigenetics greatest hits like ChIP and MeDip are hitting the labs and early adopters aren’t looking back.
Get Your Epigenetics Automation On
OK, sure. If you haven’t run a ChIP or MeDIP assay since the Clinton administration, an automated system with all the bells and whistles might not be for you, but for many scientists in the epigenetics game, automation could mean the difference between getting the scoop and being the scooped. We caught up with Diagenode Application Scientist Sharon Squazzo, who provides field support for the IP-Star Compact System, the first automating platform out there for epigenetics assays. She gave us 5 great reasons that you may want to hop on the epigenetics automation bandwagon. Check them out:
- You Want To Go Faster: Because up to 16 assays can be run together, bigger projects can be handled with ease. “Whether your lab runs a single epigenetic assay over and over, or you need to jump between multiple assays, automation will expand your lab’s capabilities to get the job done quickly.” Says Squazzo.
- There Aren’t Enough Hours In a Day: Even the most dedicated post-docs occasionally need food, rest and bathroom breaks. Not so with instruments. Aside from a few minutes of monthly upkeep, an automated instrument can be run non-stop. According to Squazzo “All it takes is about half an hour of hands on time, and then you can walk away to work on something else, instead of spending several hours at the bench.” That’s extra time that can be applied to critical lab activities like cracking those higher levels in Angry Birds.
- Variability Is the Enemy: We all pipet a little differently, and since many experimental procedures like, ChIP and MeDIP, involve long multi-step protocols, this makes the risk of introducing variability very high. Automated instrumentation lets you standardize your assays so that you can get consistent results from person to person, day to day and lab to lab. “Users will also avoid things like cross-contamination, sample carryover and false positives which really pays off when you’re doing something as sensitive as sequencing later on,” added Squazzo.
- Even a Caveman Can Use It: Well, maybe not a caveman…but hung-over undergrads on up to desk-bound PI’s can certainly master it. Machines like the IP-Star Compact use a slick touch-screen interface to guide users every step of the way, and enable making protocol adjustments as easy as creating a playlist in iTunes. Once the settings are just right, press “Start”, sit back and enjoy the show.
- Options Are a Good Thing: The IP-Star Compact System has so many uses; it’s like an epigenetic Swiss Army Knife. It will easily switch between chromatin experiments and DNA methylation assays, adjust experimental conditions, try different protocol parameters, and even play around with different reagents. In fact the only limitation is that the assays must be magnetic bead based. “Diagenode automated systems are open platforms that provide to the user the same flexibility as if he was doing experiments in the bench.” Added Squazzo.