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Immunotherapy is now a reality

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2014 VOL.24 NO.6 PP100008671


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My Lab

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The $1000 genome

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ydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research has been chosen as one of the first facilities in the world to acquire machines that can sequence a whole human genome at a base cost below US$1000. The HiSeq X Ten Sequencing System, from Illumina, was introduced by CEO Jay Flatley at the JP Morgan 32nd Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Flatley described the product as “a dramatic technology advance that will enable researchers at the Garvan Institute to undertake studies of unprecedented scale”. The system is said to be the world’s first platform to deliver full coverage human genomes for less than $1000, inclusive of typical instrument depreciation, DNA extraction, library preparation and estimated labour, though it does not include the cost of obtaining samples nor the analysis and interpretation of the data. It is sold as a set of 10 or more ultrahigh throughput sequencing systems, each generating up to 1.8 terabases (Tb) of sequencing data in less than three days or up to 600 gigabases (Gb) per day, per system. Purpose-built for population-scale, whole genome sequencing, the product is suitable for scientists and institutions focused on the discovery of genotypic variation to enable a deeper understanding of human biology and genetic disease. It can sequence tens of thousands of samples annually, delivering a comprehensive catalogue of human variation within and outside coding regions. Flatley said Illumina approached Garvan “due to its strength in the analysis and interpretation of genomic data, and its close affiliation with St Vincent’s Hospital”. With the support of The Kinghorn Foundation, the institute was able to purchase the sequencing system, which is capable of sequencing around 350 genomes a week, or 18,000 a year. “Just over a decade ago it cost over a billion dollars to sequence the first human genome,” noted Professor John Mattick, executive director of Garvan. “Illumina’s new system makes it possible to address the pressing clinical needs of the thousands of people in Australia with genetic diseases and the tens of thousands diagnosed with cancer each year. “We will start by using our new system for large-scale research projects and for problemdependent diagnostic purposes, specifically the routine analysis of cancer biopsies and people with genetic disorders. We will also begin to analyse the genomes of people suffering from other conditions, such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.” In the future, says Professor Mattick, genome sequencing could be available widely enough for personal health management. For example, Associate Professor Marcel Dinger, Garvan Head of Clinical Genomics, had his own genome sequenced recently, alerting him to a likely sensitivity to a commonly used general anaesthetic - a problem he can now avoid. As for Garvan’s future, Professor Mattick anticipates it will go on to “serve as a genomics hub for Australia and possibly the region”; however, he noted that the system “will need massive global databases to support interpretation of the data”. Thus, he expects the purchase will “underpin a new phase of collaboration between government, industry and other medical research stakeholders”.

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Immunotherapy is paying off at last Detect, destroy, remember is the mantra of the immune system as it campaigns against infectious invaders and the body’s own abnormal cells.

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© iStockphoto.com/vitanovski

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or decades, researchers have strived to use the immune system to destroy cancer cells. In addition to recognising, destroying and remembering viral and bacterial infections, the immune system routinely does the same thing to the body’s own abnormal cells, the type that develop into cancer. However, vaccines and other immune therapies developed to hit cancer were bedevilled by tumour defences, resulting in minimal impact on the cancer if not outright treatment failure. Now, immunotherapy is finally offering viable treatment options for some cancers.

Amazing results against metastatic melanoma Dr Jim Allison, chair of Immunology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has developed an entirely different way of treating cancer by targeting the immune system, not the tumour itself. Allison’s basic science research on the biology of T cells, immune system attack cells primed to identify and destroy infections and the body’s abnormal cells, has led to several discoveries: • Identification of the receptor on T cells used to recognise and bind to antigens - abnormalities that mark defective cells or viruses and bacteria for attack. • The discovery that T cells require a second molecular signal from co-stimulatory molecules to launch a response after they’ve bound to an antigen. • A discovery involving a receptor on T cells called CTLA-4 that acts as a built-in off switch to stop T cells from attacking. These immune checkpoints usually protect normal tissues from autoimmunity and aren’t effective on abnormal cells. Cancer cells, however, activate CTLA-4. Allison then developed an antibody that led to development of ipilimumab to block CTLA-4. In clinical trials against stage 4 melanoma, the drug extinguished the disease in 24% of patients for up to 12 years and counting - unprecedented results against metastatic melanoma. The drug, now called Yervoy, was approved to treat melanoma by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2011. Allison’s basic research on the biology of T cells - the supremely targeted shock troops of the immune system - revealed an important reason why. He found that a receptor on T cells acts as an ‘off switch’

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to shut down activated T cells. Designed to protect normal cells from T cell attack, tumour cells also are equipped to fire up the receptor CTLA-4 to stop a targeted immune system assault. Additional immune checkpoints and experimental drugs to block them are now being developed by others. Clinical trials of these agents and ipilimumab focusing on melanoma, lymphoma, lung, breast, gastric and prostate cancers are already in progress, with more to come.

Targeting cancer stem cells in brain cancers An early-phase clinical trial of an experimental vaccine that targets cancer stem cells in patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and aggressive malignant brain tumour, has been launched by researchers at CedarsSinai’s Department of Neurosurgery, Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Brain Tumour Center and Department of Neurology. Like normal stem cells, cancer stem cells have the ability to self-renew and generate new cells, but instead of producing healthy cells, they create cancer cells. In theory, if the cancer stem cells can be destroyed, a tumour may not be able to sustain itself, but if the cancer originators are not removed or destroyed, a tumour will continue to return despite the use of existing cancer-killing therapies. The Phase I study, which will enrol about 45 patients and last two years, evaluates safety and dosing of a vaccine created individually for each participant and designed to boost the immune system’s natural ability to protect the body against foreign invaders called antigens. The drug targets a protein, CD133, found on cancer stem cells of some brain tumours and other cancers. Immune system cells called dendritic cells will be derived from each patient’s blood, combined with commercially prepared glioblastoma proteins and grown in the laboratory before being injected under the skin as a vaccine weekly for four weeks and then once every two months, according to Jeremy Rudnick, MD, neuro-oncologist in the CedarsSinai Department of Neurosurgery and Department of Neurology, the study’s principal investigator. Dendritic cells are the immune system’s most powerful

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - February/March 2014

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... MEASURING IMMUNE SYSTEM RESPONSES DIRECTLY IN THE LESIONS MAY BE A MORE ACCURATE WAY TO EVALUATE SO-CALLED ‘THERAPEUTIC’ VACCINES THAN BY THE CONVENTIONAL

© iStockphoto.com/Eraxion

MEANS OF BLOOD ANALYSIS.

antigen-presenting cells - those responsible for helping the immune system recognise invaders. By being loaded with specific protein fragments of CD133, the dendritic cells become ‘trained’ to recognise the antigen as a target and stimulate an immune response when they come in contact. The cancer stem cell study is the latest evolution in Cedars-Sinai’s history of dendritic cell vaccine research, which was introduced experimentally in patient trials in 1998.

precancerous cervical lesions linked to a strain of the human papillomavirus (HPV16) most commonly associated with cervical cancer. In a bid to treat the lesions and prevent cervical cancer, they received three vaccine injections in the upper arm over an eight-week period.

Immune cell response to cervical precancer vaccine

Two types of vaccines were used for the study: one constructed with genetically engineered DNA molecules that teach immune system cells to recognise premalignant cells expressing HPV16 E7 proteins and one that is a non-infectious, engineered virus that targets and kills precancerous cells marked by HPV16 and HPV18 E6 and E7 proteins.

Preliminary results of a small clinical trial show that a vaccine used to treat women with high-grade precancerous cervical lesions triggers an immune cell response within the damaged tissue itself. The Johns Hopkins scientists who conducted the trial said the finding is significant because measuring immune system responses directly in the lesions may be a more accurate way to evaluate so-called ‘therapeutic’ vaccines than by the conventional means of blood analysis. “It’s difficult to measure immune cell responses to therapeutic vaccines, but we believe that clinical studies could tell us more about the value and function of the vaccines if we check for the response in the lesions, where the immune system is fighting precancerous cells,” says Connie Trimble, MD, associate professor of gynaecology and obstetrics, oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins’ Kimmel Cancer Center. Each of the 12 women in the clinical trial was diagnosed with high-grade

Seven weeks after the third vaccination, the investigators surgically removed cervical lesions from all of the women. Blood samples and cervical tissue were collected from each patient at the beginning and end of the trial, letting scientists compare immune cell responses before and after vaccination. In three of six patients treated with the highest dose of the vaccine, and one patient in each of the two groups receiving lower doses of the vaccine, the cervical lesions disappeared. The first patient was treated in 2008 and the 12th in 2012. None of the 12 patients has, so far, developed more lesions. Among those vaccinated, the investigators found significant increases of CD8 T-cells, the ‘killer’ cells of the immune system, in cervical tissue. Blood samples failed to show as strong a pre- and post-vaccination effect. The investigators also said the vaccine did not have the unwanted consequence of altering the number of T-regulatory cells, which suppress immune system responses.

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WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - February/March 2014

“We found striking immune system changes within cervical lesions, which were not as evident in the patients’ peripheral blood samples,” says Trimble. The investigators also measured gene expression of post-vaccinated cervical cells in three of the patients and found increased expression of several genes (CXCR3, Tbet and IFN ) associated with activation of the immune system. They found many similarities in T-cell receptors in the cervical tissue of two of the vaccinated patients, “suggesting that the T-cells are seeing the same thing”, says Trimble. The Johns Hopkins team says it plans to enrol some 20 more patients, testing a combination of the vaccines and a topical cream to enhance the immune response locally. Trimble says that the conventional practice of measuring vaccine effectiveness via blood tests probably began with mouse models used for immunotherapy research. “But the way that HPV and the immune system behave in humans may be far different,” she says. HPV causes nearly all cervical, anal, vaginal and penile cancers and nearly two-thirds of oral cancers. In the cervix, about 20 to 25% of high-grade lesions will disappear spontaneously. Because there is no standard way to predict lesions that will disappear, the current standard of care for these lesions is surgical removal. Current preventive vaccines for HPV are not effective on women already exposed to the ubiquitous virus.

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Pure Silver The new Eppendorf Mastercycler® X1 The new Mastercycler nexus X1 combines the modern and intuitive software from the Mastercycler nexus with a fast 96-well silver block for increased heating and cooling rates. It is fast, easy to use, does not need much space or energy and sends you an e-mail when it is done— what else do you need from a PCR cycler?

Combine, Connect, Control > Combine up to 3 units for maximum throughput! > Connect your Mastercycler nexus to your computer network and get a status e-mail to your desk! > Control all the relevant parameters of your PCR through the intuitive software

www.eppendorf.com/X1 Eppendorf®, the Eppendorf logo and Eppendorf Mastercycler® are registered trademarks of Eppendorf AG, Hamburg, Germany. All rights reserved, including graphics and images. Copyright © 2013 by Eppendorf AG.


Liquid nitrogen generator Stackable shaking incubators Labwit Scientific stackable shaking incubators are designed for modern labs with versatile functional requirements but limited space. The ZWYR-D2403 series shaker can be stacked up to three units high, providing laboratory professionals with tripled culture capacity while still only occupying the same footprint of a single shaker. Units are available in single, double and triple stacks. The series features a large touch-screen panel which clearly indicates all parameters in one page display. With PID and fuzzy logic to control temperature, the unit creates suitable temperature conditions ranging from 4-60°C with 0.1°C accuracy. Each stack unit features a fully insulated fold-down door with a double-glazed glass window for high visibility. On all refrigerating models, a microprocessor controller provides versatility by enabling users to create a personalised program (with up to nine segments, with cycling) to automate changes to function parameters on a time basis. The dedicated sliding shaking platform provides access to the user’s experiment products. A heavy-duty, eccentric drive mechanism allows extended speed ranges from 30 to 300 rpm, ±1 rpm with minimised vibration, even when shakers are stacked three high. A robust, brushless AC motor enables the shaking motion to be quiet and smooth, even when the unit is operating at top speed with maximum workload. An interior chamber light enhances observation. The shaker has a range of safety features. Its non-volatile memory saves settings during a power outage and automatically restarts the unit after power is restored; the heater shuts off when the

The Khione LN2 Generation Plant is an efficient alternative to conventional liquid nitrogen supplies. The product removes the ongoing costs and safety considerations of the delivery and transportation of traditional liquid gas supplies. Using the ‘cryo-refrigerator’ design of a cold head and helium compressor, nitrogen gas is produced using the PSA technique which is then cooled to -196°C to produce liquid nitrogen. The generators are controlled using touch-screen technology to display the process in real time, plus Dewar liquid level, PSA nitrogen production, trend graphs and more. Applications include remote mining laboratories, animal genetics, storage of samples, hospitals and laboratories, metal treatment, superconductivity, theme parks and film production. Models with LN 2 production from 10-240 L/day are available. Rheology Solutions Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W047

high-temperature limit is exceeded; and the shaker stops when excess vibration is detected or the door is opened. Audible and visual alarms alert the user of setpoint deviations and can be muted. LABWIT Scientific Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V910

Culture vessels Cell culture vessels, extending from open to closed systems, are available in various formats from Corning to meet research needs and support bioproduction. To grow more attachment-dependent cells, the company has added the Falcon Multi-Flask to its range of scale-up culture vessels. Falcon’s 3- and 5-layer multiflasks simplify scale-up, enabling the user to grow more cells faster and easier. The multiflasks offer the same footprint as a T175, with the same volume and same cell seeding densities. For users who want more layers for more cells using the T175 footprint, the Corning HYPER Flask offers 10 interconnected layers for 10-fold higher cell yields than a T175 flask. For ensuring flask-like conditions and supporting bioproduction, Corning offers the CellSTACK Culture Chamber ranging from 1 to 40 layers with a corresponding growth area of 636 to 25,440 cm2. When growing cells as rotating cultures in an open system is preferred, Corning Roller Bottles are suitable. Disposable polystyrene roller bottles are available in four sizes, with 490 through to 1750 cm2 growth areas. This is an economical option for cultivating large quantities of attachment-dependent cells. The cell growth chambers are available in standard configurations as well as specialised advanced surfaces, including CellBIND or ECM Mimetic surfaces. In Vitro Technologies Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V856

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Laboratory bottles Duran laboratory bottles are widely used in scientific research for activities such as sampling, storage, mixing and sterilisation of liquids. The Youtility bottle system addresses the critical issues of safe handling and bottle identification through the systematic design of the individual components. The bottles, with their ergonomic hand grips, are made of highly resistant Duran glass and are available in four sizes: 125, 250, 500 and 1000 mL. The ergonomically shaped screw closure can be safely and comfortably handled by all users, especially those with smaller hands or who are wearing protective laboratory gloves. The bottle bodies and closure feature dedicated areas for the attachment of self-adhesive identification labels. Bottle tags fit around the bottle neck and allow for the simple colour personalisation of bottles that are used in shared work areas. Schott Australia Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W143

Funnels Robust and lightweight, Kartell Buchner Funnels are designed for ease of use in the Buchner Filtration process. The Buchner Filtration process uses a Buchner Flask connected to a vacuum pump to improve the filtration process. The cylinder on top is designed to hold extra material and is separated from the funnel by a perforated plate. The advantage of this system is that more material can be filtered, and the process is said to be faster than the traditional method of allowing the

Single-channel pipettes LabGear Australia has introduced the Capp Bravo range of singlechannel pipettes. The series is available in variable and fixed volumes and combines lightweight, ergonomic design with innovations in manual pipette design. The product is constructed from high-quality autoclavable materials and features light plunger and ejection forces in a user-friendly package. The fully autoclavable range is available in volumes

solvent to be filtered using the force of gravity. The funnels feature two-piece polypropylene construction. The base of the top section is perforated to allow solvent to pass through and can be used in conjunction with both the Kartell discs for Buchner Funnels and filter paper to filter the solvent while trapping the original material. With a weave of 250 Âľ, the optional discs are an extra method of avoiding clogging the filter holes in the funnel. The polypropylene used in the funnels is heat- and corrosion-resistant, and features good chemical resistance. The top and bottom sections can be separated for easy and total cleaning, and can be sterilised by autoclaving. The funnels are available in eight sizes: from Art. 437, which has a filter diameter of 42.5 mm and a capacity of 40 mL, up to Art. 445, which has a 240 mm filter diameter and a capacity of 6000 mL.

from 0.1 ÂľL up to 10 mL and

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is backed up by the LabGear

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Australia technical support team. LabGear Australia Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V528

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The new Secura速 Riskless weighing in regulated areas.

Advanced Pharma Compliance means maximum operational safety and fully automatic self-monitoring in pharmaceutical laboratories. Secura速 guarantees better results with: - LevelControl for total confidence in your results: No more incorrect results from an unleveled balance - isoCAL: Internal fully automatic calibration and adjustment function with configurable action level - SQmin: Active monitoring of the USP minimum sample weight requirement Secura速 guarantees compliance with documentation requirements through: - Cal Audit Trail - GLP-compliant print-out - Password protection for setup settings Sartorius Australia Phone: 03 8762 1800/1800 645 076 info.australia@sartorius.com

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Mycoplasma detection kit Mycoplasma are among the smallest bacteria capable of independent

Cell staining kits

reproduction. They have a slow and parasitic growth and cause many

The CytoPainter range of dyes from Abcam enables subcel-

infections in animals and plants. They are also difficult to control, as they

lular visualisation and live cell tracking in a multicolour stain-

lack the bacterial cell wall which is the main point of attack for many

ing platform. The staining kits use fluorescent dyes with high

antibiotics. For this reason, a complete retention with conventional cell

photostability and can be used on both fixed and live cells.

structure sterile filters (0.2 Âľm pore size) is not possible.

The kits are available in a variety of colours (far-red to blue) and

There are many methods for the identification of a mycoplasma

are suitable for co-localisation studies with transfected stable

contamination. Growth-based methods are very common, but require a

cell lines (such as GFP, tomato or mCherry). The current range

cultivation time of at least 28 days before a contamination with these slow-

includes stains for ER, golgi, F-actin, lysosome, mitochondria and

growing bacteria can be ruled out with certainty. During this period, the

nucleolus, as well as cell tracking across multiple generations.

sample must be visually inspected on a daily basis. Even with the aid of

The staining protocol requires minimal hands-on time - simply

fluorescence detection it takes at least eight days before a mycoplasma

prepare cells, add dye, incubate and analyse. The non-toxic

infection can be ruled out. In addition, the user needs a trained eye, a lot

formulation of the dyes minimises photobleaching and is suit-

of experience and specific know-how for the interpretation of the results.

able for extended imaging of live cells. Sapphire Bioscience Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W187

Wireless monitoring system Tempsys provides wireless laboratory monitoring for fridges, freezers, CO2 chambers and more. The Checkpoint monitoring system uses existing infrastructure and off-site software to reduce installation costs and equipment outlay. A wide range of sensors for every PCR-based detection kits such as the Microsart AMP Mycoplasma Kit

application use Wi-Fi technology to

offer users a sensitive and robust detection within only 3 h. The method

send data securely over the internet

is said to be simple and the kit is supplied ready for use. All that is

to cloud-hosted servers. Users can be

needed on top is a Realtime Thermocycler that is capable of detecting

alerted as to equipment malfunction

the fluorescent dyes FAM and ROX. The PCR kit is suitable for a wide

via email, SMS or talking text service.

variety of initial matrices. In combination with a Vivaspin 20 or Vivaspin

Bioline Global Pty Ltd

6 ultrafiltration unit, a volume of up to 18 mL can be processed, which

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ensures an increase in sensitivity. Sartorius Stedim Australia Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W128

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CASE STUDY

Protecting critical data assets from seismic events Victoria University is one of New Zealand’s most respected universities, providing teaching and learning for nearly 21,000 students from around the world. Based in the seismically active area of Wellington and subject to several significant earthquakes in recent years, the university’s infrastructure services team was tasked with the development of a disaster recovery (DR) data centre. Disaster recovery sites are traditionally located in another city, far from the threat of disaster. While a logical solution, this off-site option comes with two distinct disadvantages: • IT services must travel for frequent data centre maintenance. • An off-site DR requires IT services to leave family and loved ones in the face of disaster in order to attend to the disaster recovery site. With this in mind, Victoria University Infrastructure Services Manager Phil Mansford and his team sought to develop a shockproof system that could manage earthquakes and disaster head on; a solution that could be maintained close at hand. Victoria University had three key requirements: survivability, robustness and standalone operation. This led to the development of QuakeSurfer - a steel platform that essentially surfs over earthquakes. Two years in the making, the in-house innovation was conceived by the university’s own IT staff, developed by engineering firm Dunning Thornton and constructed by MJH Engineering. During development the team took elements from existing seismic protection technology - ‘base isolators/low gliders’ that protect against horizontal forces. Using data collected from Christchurch quakes, Victoria University determined the necessity to protect against vertical forces as well. “The QuakeSurfer has two main components: low gliders that use friction to provide the horizontal protection and a horizontal protection system called QuakeSurfer to protect against vertical forces. In this way we create 360° protection,” Mansford explained. Victoria University chose Rittal to supply a single-source solution for complete data centre infrastructure after exploring the Rittal data centre container on-site at Christchurch’s Orion Energy - a prefabricated, plugand-play solution. Victoria University found that the product met each of its requirements: • A single-source data centre incorporating racks, power, cooling, security and remote management. • Energy efficient thanks to direct free cooling (ensuring a lower PUE of approximately 1.3) and space-saving rack technology. • Low-cost deployment. • A trusted brand in the New Zealand market. Mansford and his team worked with Rittal New Zealand’s sales manager, Brad Riach, and his team to design, order and commission the Rittal data centre container. The Victoria University team saw major savings in the cost of design and development through to installation. “The deployment time and financial costs are far lower when compared to bricks and mortar,” Mansford said. “The Rittal solution is very low cost for deployment. We believe the cost is considerably less than a comparable ‘in building’ installation when you consider the cost of building fit-out, ducting and fire suppression.” Rittal’s prefabricated, precertified solution saves ample time in deployment and commissioning. Shipped from Germany 80% complete, the RDCC was completed at Rittal’s Wellington premises then delivered to the site. All this was completed in less than four weeks. The QuakeSurfer-RDCC solution has received accolades for its flexibility and diversity. It can be deployed as either disaster recovery or a primary data centre space. The product is suitable for locations in the so-called ‘Ring of Fire’ around the Pacific basin, where seismic activity is frequent. The QuakeSurfer represents a fortified insurance policy for critical assets. Teamed with Rittal’s modular data centre container, the solution represents a shake- and disaster-proof data centre solution for earthquake-affected areas. “Together they provide a solution that is robust, standalone and will survive any foreseeable disaster,” said Mansford. “For this operation to encounter significant damage, I doubt there would be anyone left to operate the data centre!” Rittal Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W113

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WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - February/March 2014

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Barium fluoride windows Edmund Optics introduces TechSpec Barium Fluoride (BaF2) Windows. The windows are suitable for use in a wide variety of applications, including infrared (IR) spectroscopy, as they offer wide broadband transmission extending from the deep ultraviolet (UV) to the long-wave IR. They are available in four models with diameters from 5 to 50 mm. With good transmission from 200 nm to 14 µm, the windows take advantage of barium fluoride’s low index of refraction (1.48), which provides high transmission without the need for antireflection (AR) coatings. The windows can be used at temperatures up to 800°C in a dry environment. They are said to be resistant to high-energy radiation and feature a Knoop hardness of 82. Barium fluoride is a very fast scintillator for the detection of X-rays, gamma rays and other high energy particles, such as 511 keV gamma photons in positron emission tomography (PET). It is also used to detect high-energy (10-150 MeV) neutrons and separate them from simultaneously occurring gamma photons using pulse shape discrimination techniques. Edmund Optics Singapore Pte Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W124

Agar media dishes Sartorius Stedim Biotech has introduced Microsart @media to complement Microsart @vance, a product line for microbiological quality control in these sectors. The Microsart @media line of agar media dishes is for microbial limits testing according to the USP (Chapter <61>) and EP (Chapter 2.6.12). They are pre-filled with various agar media types, such as Tryptic Soy Agar or R2A Agar, sterile packaged and ready to use in combination with Microsart @filter units. The product features an innovative lid that allows touch-free transfer of the filter membrane onto the media without using any tweezers. In addition,

Process instrumentation

easy access to the colonies after incubation is

Anton Paar process instrumentation is suitable for critical production processes.

available due to the liftable lid. The intelligent

The company’s full range of instruments and certified support is available in

design and ease of use is said to eliminate most

Australia and New Zealand at MEP Instruments.

handling mistakes.

accurate and safe measurement of important quality parameters such as

ing Microsart @media active lid fits onto the

°Brix, % diet concentration, CO2, alcohol, sugar inversion and extract during

Microsart @filter base. The few steps required

the whole production process.

between sampling and incubation are said to

Its density sensor monitors the product quality and product specifications

save time and labour while delivering more reli-

of liquids. The sound velocity sensor provides an accurate determination of

able results. The touch-free membrane transfer

the sound velocity and concentration of liquids during production.

eliminates membrane manipulation and handling,

The company’s inline CO2 sensor is suitable for the continuous monitoring

thereby minimising a major source of secondary

and control of CO2 content during beverage production. The inline viscometer

contamination.

continuously monitors the viscosity of process liquids such as suspensions,

Sartorius Stedim Australia Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W127

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The company’s inline and online beverage analyser provide continuous,

Due to their concerted development, the match-

lubricants and starch adhesives. MEP Instruments Pty Limited Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W234

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CASE STUDY

Data capture software for clinical research into mental health Arcitecta is developing a product to improve the capture and management of data from clinical research worldwide. The work builds on the company’s metadata management platform, Mediaflux, “but extends its capabilities for clinical research data capture and management,” according Arcitecta Chief Technical Officer Jason Lohrey. This project is being funded by the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation in Victoria, with in-kind contributions from Arcitecta and the CRC for Mental Health. The CRC is also providing real data taken from volunteers. “Modern medical research relies on data collected from patient volunteers to test the effectiveness of new products and discover new ways of diagnosing diseases early,” explained Dr Noel Faux, bioinformatician at the CRC for Mental Health. A key focus of the CRC is gaining insights from longitudinal studies into Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and various mood disorders. These studies collect data at regular intervals over the course of between one to seven years. The amount of data generated and that needs to be assessed can be in the order of over 100 TB, which could be spread across the 19 different organisations that form the CRC for Mental Health consortium. The aim with all of these studies is to identify the biomarkers that provide an early indication of the onset of these mental illnesses. Changes in proteins, lipids or brain activity could indicate the first signs of a mental illness, so being able to detect these changes would provide clinicians with the ability to diagnose and treat the condition at the early onset stage, rather than waiting until the condition has developed. Arcitecta’s new software product will: • enable clinicians to capture clinical data at the bedside, in a form that is easily accessible to them and other non-expert IT users; • import and export new and existing data; • enable multiple research institutions to collaborate on multiple trials by allowing them to feed data; • allow users to develop additional functions as and when they need it. “To identify causal factors for a particular mental illness, researchers need to gather and assess an enormous amount of clinical information, which consists of a mix of clinical notes, medical imaging and patient pathology results,” Dr Faux said. “This project is important because it means we can capture all sorts of data across multiple sites, covering multiple conditions; enhancing the results and the management of the patient’s condition.” Using modern agile software development techniques, Arcitecta will build and implement the new product (to the CRC for Mental Health’s specifications) within 12 months and promote it through the CRC for Mental Health consortium and its global alliance with SGI. The CRC will then test the product across multiple sites in Melbourne and Perth and multiple clinical settings, ensuring it meets the diverse needs of the clinical and research community and the trials being conducted. Once successfully implemented, said Dr Faux, the product “will have application worldwide and will enhance our ability to collaborate with other leading researchers”. Arcitecta www.arcitecta.com

Pressure calibrators Fluke has introduced its two latest models of pressure calibrators: the Fluke 719Pro and 721 Dual Range. The 719Pro Electric Pressure Calibrator is a test tool for calibrating transmitters, pressure switches and pressure gauges. It features high-accuracy pressure measurements and an onboard electric pressure pump that can generate up to 300 psi, eliminating the need for an external hand pump. It also measures, simulates and sources 4-20 mA loop current signals and can measure up to 30 VDC. Its internal 24 loop power supply can power a transmitter under test. The Fluke 721 Dual Range Pressure Calibrator, with dual isolated pressure sensors, lets technicians take simultaneous static and differential pressure measurements in a single tool for gas custody and transfer applications. It can be configured by selecting either a 16 or 36 psi low-pressure sensor and then add any of seven high-pressure ranges including 100, 300, 500, 1000, 1500, 3000 or 5000 psi. Fluke Networks Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V815

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YOUTILITY – TOUCH THE FUTURE THE DURAN LABORATORY BOTTLE SYSTEM ®

SCHOTT Australia & New Zealand Pty. Ltd. 1/9 Rodborough Road, Frenchs Forest 2083 NSW www.schott.com/australia


Acrylamide kits for gel electrophoresis Bio-Rad Laboratories has launched its TGX FastCast acrylamide and TGX Stain-Free FastCast acrylamide kits, which provide handcast gel users access to the company’s TGX gel chemistry. The kits allow users to hand cast polyacrylamide gels with fast run times, efficient protein transfers and consistent, reproducible results. The TGX Stain-Free version allows users to monitor the success of each step in their protein electrophoresis and western blotting workflows. Stain-free technology provides confidence at each step of the workflow through visual checks. Stain-free visualisation also enables total protein normalisation, a more accurate method than using housekeeping proteins for correcting loading errors. Unlike traditional handcast gels, which require 60 min to polymerise before running, FastCast gels can be used only 30 min after casting. Protein electrophoresis can then be run on the gels in as little as 20 min. In addition, the gels can conveniently be stored for up to four

2014-2015 laboratory catalogue

weeks after casting, allowing researchers to cast multiple gels at once and use as needed.

Westlab has launched its 2014-

Rad’s Trans-Blot Turbo transfer system. The Stain-Free FastCast acrylamide kits further allow

2015 laboratory catalogue.

protein detection in gels or on membranes in 3-5 min using the company’s stain-free imag-

A suitable resource for the labo-

Proteins can be transferred from FastCast gels in as little as 3 min when used with Bio-

ing systems. This makes it possible for researchers to cast their gels and achieve complete

ratory, products are fully priced,

protein separation, gel imaging and data analysis in less than an hour.

covering all areas of the lab.

Bio-Rad Laboratories Pty Ltd

Westlab Supplies

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V567

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W142

Ultrasonic baths The VWR Ultrasonic Baths provide effective and efficient cleaning of laboratory glass-

Bidirectional mass flow controllers Alicat Scientific introduces what it claims to be the first bidirectional flow controller. The MCD Series bidirectional mass flow controller control flows into the user’s process in one direction and then switches direction; or controls flow into a closed process and then vents the volume, with no need for additional bleed valves. The product is able to: measure mass flow and volumetric flow in both directions plus absolute pressure and temperature; control mass or volumetric flow from a pressurised source or from vacuum; control absolute pressure or backpressure in a flowing process; control absolute pressure in a closed volume with automatic venting. The flow controller is easy to use. With the local display, users can make changes to the configuration of the unit without the need for computers, complicated software or scripts. The product is rated with accuracies of ± 0.8% of reading + 0.2% of full scale. It has very few moving parts and a repeatability of ± 0.2% of FS. The device has a response time of less than 10 ms and a control time of 100 ms. It is available in any flow range, from 0.5 sccm through 3000 slpm, and is equipped with analog outputs and inputs. It requires little power to

ware, instruments and a range of industrial applications. All models are supplied with a lid, basket and support rack. With end-user applications in mind, the company offers three models with seven volume options, ranging from 1.9 to 28.4 L. Users can also select from a timer only, timer and heater or timer, heater and degas. Additional accessories constructed from 304 stainless steel include lids, baskets, support racks, covers for beakers and draining hoses.

run, reducing operating costs, and has less pressure

VWR International Pty Ltd

drop when compared to similar flow devices, meaning

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V707

more process fluids go into the process and not into the measurement devices. The product is used in processes like pharmaceutical and semiconductor manufacturing, fuel cell research, auto-paint application and emissionscompliance equipment. Duff & Macintosh Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V979

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© iStockphoto.com/renzzo

Sending messages via molecules

R

esearchers from the University of Warwick in the UK and York University in Canada have created a molecular communications system which can be used for the transmission of messages and data in challenging environments. Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, the scientists describe “the first modular and programmable platform capable of transmitting a text message using chemical signalling - a method also known as molecular communication”. The method is common in the plant and animal worlds - many insects use pheromones for long-range signalling, for example. Dr Weisi Guo from the University of Warwick noted that “people have achieved short-ranged signalling using chemicals, but we have gone to the next level and successfully communicated continuous and generic messages over several metres”. The researchers developed the capability to transform any generic message into binary signals, which are then ‘programmed’ into evaporated alcohol molecules from vodka. The chemical signal, containing the words “O Canada”, was sent four metres across the lab with the aid of a tabletop fan. It was then demodulated by a receiver that measured the rate of change in concentration of the alcohol molecules, picking up whether the concentration was increasing or decreasing. “We believe we have sent the world’s first text message to be transmitted entirely with molecular communication, controlling concentration levels of the alcohol molecules to encode the alphabet,

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with single spray representing bits and no spray representing the bit zero,” said York University doctoral candidate Nariman Farsad, who led the experiment. But the method won’t be used as frivolously as a day-to-day text message: the researchers say molecular communication is “attractive for applications where conventional wireless systems perform poorly, from nanotechnology to urban health monitoring”. Environments where electromagnetic waves cannot be used, and chemical signals offer a more efficient method, include underground structures such as tunnels, pipelines or underwater environments. “For example, the recent massive clog in the London sewer system could have been detected earlier on, and without all the mess workers had to deal with, by sending robots equipped with a molecular communication system,” said Professor Andrew Eckford from York University. Dr Guo added, “They can also be used to communicate on the nanoscale, for example in medicine, where recent advances mean it’s possible to embed sensors into the organs of the body or create miniature robots to carry out a specific task such as targeting drugs to cancer cells.” He explained that molecular communication signals are biocompatible, require little energy to generate and propagate, and don’t feature the same constraints as electromagnetic signals do at the nanoscale. Dr Guo said the idea of “sending a detailed message using perfume … sounds like something from a spy thriller novel, but in reality it is an incredibly simple way to communicate”.

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - February/March 2014

21


Anaerobic workstations The Whitley A85TG and A95TG workstations are anaerobic chambers which run from three separate gases. This is claimed to make them 30% cheaper to operate than dual-gas versions, which use cylinders of ANO2 and N2. The units run on separate cylinders of N2, H2 and CO2 to create anaerobic conditions, which is said to be more cost-effective than purchasing premixed anaerobic gas. Both models are fitted with a large 30 L airlock with a powered internal door to provide effective sample and equipment transfer in the fastest possible time, while ensuring the minimum amount of oxygen is introduced into the chamber. bare-handed. Each glove port also acts as a mini-airlock for 10

Analytical balances for detecting electrostatic charge

plates so users can transfer up to 20 plates as they insert their

There are many examples in the laboratory where electrostatic forces

arms. This further saves gas as it avoids the need to run an airlock

act on the weighing pan, the tare vessel and/or the sample being

cycle for small numbers of plates.

weighed. It is well known that these forces contribute to inaccurate

Manual, oval glove ports enable the user to work gloved or

A colour, touch-screen control panel provides ease of use and

results and cause slow stabilisation times.

visual display of parameters such as temperature, humidity and

Automatically detecting external effects to the weighing results due

airlock cycle status. An automatic commissioning cycle and a

to electrostatic charges makes balance operation simpler and more

built-in dehumidification system save time and resources.

dependable. The Excellence XPE analytical balances from Mettler Toledo

A range of options and accessories is available to tailor the workstation to the userâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s specific application, including a fully

incorporate StaticDetect technology which quickly and automatically detects electrostatic charge when a load is placed on the balance.

integrated anaerobic conditions monitor that displays real-time

The StaticDetect indicator switches off when no influence from

oxygen levels and enables download of data for further analysis.

electrostatic charge is present and flashes when influence is present.

The A85TG can accommodate 500-700 x 90 mm Petri dishes.

A warning message on the SmartScreen of the balance shows the

The larger A95TG accommodates 1000-1400 x 90 mm dishes in a chamber that has two sets of glove ports.

magnitude of the error. The company has a number of measures available to avoid weigh-

Don Whitley Scientific Pty Limited

ing errors caused by electrostatic charge. These measures include

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W065

ErgoClips, which act as a Farady cage; and a compact antistatic device which ionises the air to neutralise charged ions on the sample. Mettler Toledo Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W235

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DNA plasmid vectors Oxford Genetics provides a catalogue of DNA plasmid vectors for researchers. To simplify genetic engineering, the products are based on the same core plasmid backbone (SnapFast) and contain a comprehensive range of DNA components in different configurations. The aim was to engineer a DNA plasmid system that could accommodate most of the functional DNA inserts that a researcher might require within a single plasmid. By optimising the starting vector, every component of the system can be removed and exchanged for hundreds of other DNA sections which have been pre-designed and tested by Oxford Genetics. All constructs have been pre-screened for poor codon usage and conflicting restriction sites. Rare codons and restriction sites have been removed to enable efficient ex-

B-700 Series

pression which ensures conflicting restriction sites do not limit the cloning of other SnapFast DNA inserts. Most of the DNA sections within the plasmids are flanked

NEW

by restriction sites of 6 bp in length, with strategically placed 8 bp restriction sites at key positions throughout the plasmid to maximise the versatility of the system. The plasmids are designed to allow the creation of complex DNA expression vectors with minimal cloning steps. They are a suitable toolset for synthetic biology applications creating versatile cloning systems that deliver results, regardless of a project’s complexity. BioNovus Life Sciences Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V816

Solvent recyclers

Waterproof pocket-size meter

B/R Instrument offers a variety of automatic systems for recycling xylene, alcohol, formalin and xylene substitutes. Simply put the used solvent into place, push start and let the solvent recycler do the rest. When the recycled solvent is ready for re-use, the solvent

pH, conductivity, ions and salt

recycler will alert the user

Simple accurate and reliable

with an audible alarm and

Small samples typically one drop

a message on the display. The microprocessor controller watches over the solvent recycler, constantly checking all safety parameters. At the

Uses innovative flat sensor technology Calibrate and measure at the touch of a button Light, easy to clean and waterproof

end of the solvent recycling program, the equipment stops the process automatically and lets the user know that the recycled solvent is ready for re-use. The microprocessor is programmed with up to 19 different solvent recycling protocols with additional protocols easily optimised to meet specific needs. Recyclers are available in 10 and 20 L models. Abacus ALS Australia

Australian Scientific Pty Ltd Tel: 1800 021 083 PO Box 335 Fax: 02 4956 2525 Kotara, NSW 2289 Email: horiba@austscientific.com.au www.austscientific.com.au

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V808

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Touch-screen control platform Kit for methylated DNA immunoprecipitation The EpiQuik MeDIP Ultra Kit is a complete set of optimised reagents to enrich and capture methylated DNA fragments in a convenient microplatebased format. The methylated DNA that is enriched with the kit can be used for various downstream applications, including qualitative and quantitative PCR (MeDIP-PCR), microarray (MeDIP-chip) and especially sequencing (MeDIP-seq). The kit uses a monoclonal antibody, specific to 5-methylcytosine, to immunoprecipitate methylated genomic DNA. The antibody can strongly bind both single- and double-stranded DNA fragments containing two or more 5-mC, which enables highly sensitive enrichment of methylated DNA with >99% specificity. The highly sensitive and specific format of the kit can use DNA isolated from various species. The kit adopts a fast and conveni-

A touch-screen control platform for easy automation of laboratory and light industrial motion control systems has been introduced by Aerotech. The Ensemble LAB controls up to four axes of brush, stepper or brushless AC motors. It is designed for university research and manufacturing applications where ease of use is desired. The full-colour, touch-screen display enables quick access to all the core functionality while providing deep contrast and high readability. The intuitive tabbed interface provides single-press access to all set-up and operation screens. A front-panel USB port allows connection of a keyboard and other peripherals to assist in creating complex program sequences. Applications include: academic research; semiconductor manufacturing; electronics manufacturing (LEDs); test and inspection; laser processing; metals inspection; micromachining; nanotechnology; medical devices. The product includes full compatibility with both EPICS and TANGO distributed control protocols, allowing it to seamlessly integrate into applications at all major research institutions. The company’s MPS series stages support the platform’s FlashConfig feature. The stage is automatically identified and all operational parameters including axis calibration data are uploaded into the platform. This ensures safe, accurate plug-and-play operation. FlashConfig provides flexibility for laboratory environments where systems are often reconfigured to meet changing application requirements. The product can run up to four programs simultaneously for easy partitioning of complex operations. The platform controls a variety of applications including point-to-point motion, linear and circular interpolation, single- and multiaxis error correction, direct commutation of linear and rotary brushless servomotors, and servo autotuning.

ent protocol that can be completed

Lastek Pty Ltd

in less than 3 h (from input sample

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V886

to ready-to-use meDNA). Another advantage of the kit is that low DNA input is required - as low as 50 ng (10,000 cells) per reaction.

Isotope ratio infrared spectrometer

Sapphire Bioscience

The Thermo Scientific Delta Ray Isotope Ratio Infrared Spectrometer is an analyser for the continuous

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W188

measurement of isotope ratio values from CO2 in ambient air. The ability to transport the system into the field can enable scientists to continuously collect data 24 hours a day. Scientists can measure short duration phenomena that may have previously been missed due to the low-frequency sample acquisition. By comparison, a lab transporting samples from the field might only be able to collect one or two samples per week. In addition to more data, the field-deployable system can reduce or eliminate costs for vials, flasks and transport. The analyser uses laser-based mid-infrared spectroscopy to simultaneously measure carbon-13 isotope and oxygen-18 isotope with a precision of better than 0.1 parts per thousand in minutes. The mid-infrared range produces absorption signals about 8000 times stronger than the near-infrared, enhancing performance and reducing the need to clean the mirrors. The system’s Universal Reference Interface is engineered to automate referencing and calibration for verifiable measurements. The system is designed to measure large- and small-scale changes in atmospheric CO2 at concentrations from 200 ppm to 100% (with optional dilution box) over a wide range of time scales. The instrument is designed to be robust and simple to operate. Thermo Scientific Qtegra software is intended to enhance the usability, with a dashboard for system status, ‘Get Ready’ button that prepares the system for operation with one click, ‘LabBook’ objects containing methods and results, and ‘Workflow’ display to simplify navigation. The entire system fits the cargo areas of most sport utility and other light vehicles due to its small 588 x 424 mm footprint and 37 kg weight. An external computer is not needed. Thermo Fisher Scientific Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V887

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Oil-lubricated rotary vane vacuum pump The R 5 series oil-lubricated rotary vane vacuum pumps can be used to perform numerous tasks within the medical, pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The series is suitable for medical, dental and laboratory vacuum applications. The vacuum pumps provide optimised pumping speeds at low end pressures and are distinguished by their energy-efficient means of air cooling and internal oil recirculation. The recirculating oil lubrication provides a constant high vacuum level which can cope with tough operating conditions. The vacuum pumps have low noise and vibration levels and a refined extractor system, ensuring a clean and oil-free exhaust. Various sizes are available, dependent on the application being used, as well as special versions for applications such as oxygen handling, increased humidity and explosion-prone areas. Accessories and technical options are also available, including an optional gas ballast valve which allows vapours to be pumped without condensing.

MALDI TOF-TOF mass spectrometer The MALDI-7090 is targeted for proteomics and tissue imaging. It combines Shimadzu’s MALDI TOF-TOF mass spectrometry expertise with patented technology to provide high performance in the identification and structural characterisation of biomolecules. Technology such as ASDF (axial spatial distribution focusing) delivers high-resolution MALDI MS/MS for accurate compound characterisation. This is in combination with solid-state UV laser technology, true 2 kHz acquisition speed in all modes (MS and MS/MS), an integrated 10-plate loader and MALDI Solutions software. The product’s 20 keV high-energy CID capability efficiently produces additional fragment ions to further enhance characterisation. Comprising a powerful range of tools for method development, acquisition, data processing and interpretation, MALDI Solutions software allows automatic and manual control of the product and has been designed to provide a flexible platform in the hands of both novice and expert users. Targeted software modules address a wide variety of research applications, including proteomics and tissue imaging.

Busch Australia Pty Ltd

Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (Oceania) Pty Ltd

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/W068

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V241

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Extraction plate for LC-MS sample preparation Tecan’s AC Extraction Plate is an automation-friendly product designed to streamline sample preparation for LC-MS analysis of small molecules. The plate, which is based on TICE (Tecan Immobilized Coating Extraction) technology, reduces the sample preparation process to a convenient ‘pipette and shake’ routine. The product is a 96-position, deep-well microplate, with the inner surface of each well coated with a highly controlled layer of TICE material. This coating efficiently extracts low molecular weight analytes - such as vitamin D and testosterone - from aqueous solutions, eliminating the need for the time-consuming filtration, centrifugation and evaporation steps that are often integral to other methods. Sample preparation with the plate can also be easily automated, providing a rapid, walk-away solution for the extraction of small molecules from biological fluids for LC-MS analysis. Tecan Australia Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V891

Materials analysis benchtop unit To provide comprehensive compositional materials analysis at the structural and elemental level, Olympus has developed the BTX Profiler. The stylish and functional benchtop unit combines X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis in a single instrument, delivering savings in operational costs, space and time along with seamless integration of data and results. The product can be used in various applications, including energy exploration; mineral identification; ore-grade control; counterfeit drug screening; fire and explosives forensics; and corrosion monitoring. With full mineralogical and elemental analysis capabilities, it can be used for single sample measurement or for unattended multisample measurements when combined with an integrated autosampler.The product is claimed to be more efficient than conventional powder diffraction systems. The close-coupled transmission geometry means that the device only requires a low powered X-ray source and a small amount of sample. The sample-handling technology incorporates a vibration system that enables random crystal orientation in a fixed sample cell. The CCD detector with its smart energy discrimination provides graphical 2D diffraction patterns, or ring patterns, and acquires more data more rapidly than conventional XRD detectors. The unit’s Energy Dispersive XRF technology integrates selectable optimised beam paths of a miniature X-ray tube and specialised filters; a large-area silicon drift detector (SDD) for optimised resolution and detection limits; and close coupled geometry with the sample, allowing for a wide elemental and concentration measurement range. Its non-destructive capability is of particular significance for industrial sectors including energy, geochemistry, pharmaceuticals, catalysts, forensics and education. Olympus Australia Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V888

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An online resource for tracking gene patents In a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, researchers have stated that overworked patent offices are struggling to keep up with the rapid explosion in information and technology that genetic sequences represent, while the public at large is kept in the dark about gene patenting practices. It is hoped that a free online resource will bring some transparency to an otherwise opaque system.

I

n a ruling last year, “the US Supreme Court held that naturally occurring sequences from human genomic DNA are not patentable subject matter”, the researchers, from Cambia and Queensland University of Technology (QUT), said. “Only certain complementary DNAs (cDNA), modified sequences and methods to use sequences are potentially patentable.” But of those sequences which are patentable, “many patent offices have no way of tracking genetic sequences disclosed in patents and currently do not provide them in machine-searchable format”, said principal author and QUT academic Professor Osmat Jefferson. “This likely means patents are being granted for genes that are not ‘newly discovered’ at all, because the patent offices have no way of really knowing.” The team found that while major patent offices claimed to use sophisticated search tools and databases to access patent-disclosed sequences, those search mechanisms are not generally available to the public and may not be accessible to the dozens of patent offices in jurisdictions with limited budgets or emerging intellectual property protection. The study also found that the majority of over 2000 US patent claims did not actually claim the gene sequence itself, but rather its use for particular purposes. “What is happening? Who’s doing the patenting? Why are they doing it? How much are they doing it? What rights are being granted? And how much is our society benefiting from these biological patent teachings?” Professor Jefferson asked. The researchers say there is a “pressing need for precise analysis of patents that disclose and reference genetic sequences”.

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Furthermore, they state, “data sets, standards compliance and analytical tools must be improved - in particular, data sets and analytical tools must be made openly accessible - in order to provide a basis for effective decision-making and policy setting to support biological innovation”. With this in mind, an international team led by Professor Jefferson is analysing biological patents for open-access web resource The Lens, run by Cambia in collaboration with QUT. The Lens’s PatSeq (Patent Sequence) database currently holds more than 120 million DNA sequences and 10 million protein sequences drawn from patent documents. Using sequences extracted from millions of global patent documents, coupled with cutting-edge, web-based software, the toolkit provides the first open public insight into exactly who has sought patents over genes and proteins. It includes: • a graphical tool to visualise the scope of patents overlaying the human genome; • an analysing tool which allows detailed findings to the finest level to be correlated with the patent document; • a search tool that allows anyone with a gene or protein sequence to find matches in the PatSeq database. “Perhaps the toolkit’s most important feature is that all findings can be embedded and shared with anyone, anywhere at no cost, allowing researchers, policymakers and concerned citizens to explore the evidence underlying this practice,” Professor Jefferson said. “The public - and indeed enterprise and policymakers - need to know the answers if we’re to have a transparent, fair and economically productive society.”

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - February/March 2014

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Application software for filling and dosing Flexible control is important when it comes to filling systems. When operating several processes with varying requirements, it can be difficult to monitor and control them all. Filling and dosing software should make this easy. A software application for the IND890 weighing terminal from Mettler Toledo offers filling control for flexible use in industrial applications. The IND890 terminal offers ergonomic weighing with increased efficiency and flexibility, as well as features for easy operation. IND890fill software for the terminal allows users to monitor and control filling and dosing applications. The software has a memory capable of storing 999 sets of target parameters, allowing easy switchover between processes with little room for user error. Mettler Toledo Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V973

Data acquisition system The Validyne HD310 Data Acquisition System enables high-speed monitoring of multichannel nuclear power plant systems. The model’s flexibility means the device can be modified or expanded to the changing requirements of the user’s needs. The core function of the system is to provide high-speed data during the operating parameters of a nuclear power plant, providing a maximal isolation from critical electrical operating circuits. The product is capable of processing 4096 channels of analog data and converting it to digital data. The device is then able to transmit the converted digital data through fibre-optic or twistedpair cables to a master receiver. The master receiver interacts with a computer to store and utilise the processed data. All device channels can be fed simultaneously to a PCM tape recorder for bulk storage. The basic system can process anywhere from 32 to 512 channels of analog data from 1-16 remote multiplexers, but the number of channels can be increased from 512 to 4096 with a submultiplexer. The system has an integrated signal conditioner for sensors that accepts strain gauges, VR sensors and DC volts. The device has a standard ±10 VDC analog output as well supporting an analog to digital converter, and it is compatible with both fibre-optic and serial data streams. Bestech Australia Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V810

DNA purification system The ArchivePure DNA Purification System is a flexible and scalable method for the isolation of high-quality genomic DNA from a multitude of sample types. It is a suitable choice if the DNA is to be used for demanding downstream applications. The system has a fast procedure with ready-touse reagents. It achieves liquid phase purification with no toxic chemicals and detergents. The product isolates high molecular weight DNA, from 100 to 200 kb. The use of high-purity, archivequality DNA enables storage for many years. Suitable samples include blood, tissue, cells, plant, gram positive bacteria and more. VWR International Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V916

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CTC analysis system The IsoFlux System, from Fluxion, is an automated enrichment system used to isolate circulating tumour cells (CTCs) and other rare cells from biological samples prepared for downstream molecular analysis. Using microfluidic technology, the system has high CTC recovery and sample integrity, with diverse analysis options compared with conventional cell sorting technologies. It is said to be the only system that can detect CTCs in peripheral blood at concentrations of around 1 CTC in a billion blood cells. With access to a wide range of sample types including whole blood, fractionated blood, dissociated tissue and cell cultures, the user can capture cells using single or multiple antibodies with either prevalidated or user-defined kits. The system requires only minimal sample dilution, al-

Filtration unit

lowing recovery of target cells that are highly concentrated

Suitable for filtration of cell suspensions, the Greiner Bio-One

with low-volume samples and thereby producing high yield

EASYstrainer comes in mesh sizes of 40, 70 and 100 µ which

and purity of cells that are ready for molecular and cell-

are colour-coded for easy size identification.

based analysis. The unit supports a host of downstream

The high-quality strainers fit all standard 50 mL tubes and

applications including enumeration, immunofluorescence,

come in individual, easy-to-open blister packs. The venting

fluorescence in situ hybridisation, next-generation sequenc-

slot assists with fast flow and prevents overspill. The addition of a handle allows for aseptic handling and

ing, mutation detection and gene expression.

easy positioning and removal of the unit without coming into

Millennium Science Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U339

contact with the mesh material. Interpath Services Pty Ltd

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© iStockphoto.com/Jaroslav74

Discrete or continuous flow analysis - which is better?

Lalicia Potter

With both discrete and continuous segmented flow analysers being widely available, choosing the better technique is one of the common decisions facing laboratory managers.

A

wide variety of factors affects the choice of analytical instrument - target workload (samples/hour), variety of chemistries, methods required, bench space, staff availability etc. Both discrete and continuous flow systems offer fast, automated, colorimetric analysis of multiple samples, so the answer really depends on the current and future analytical requirements of the laboratory. Discrete analysers employ sample trays and discrete reaction wells in which the colorimetric reaction takes place. In contrast, segmented flow analysers (SFA) employ a continuous flow of samples and reagent, segregated by air bubbles within tubing and mixing coils. In general terms, discrete analysers are ideal when automation is a priority and/or when many and varied tests are needed on different samples. SFA is ideal when a larger number of samples is to be analysed for a smaller number of chemistries. However, both techniques are flexible, so it is important that expert advice is sought in the choice of analyser and that the instrument is configured to meet the precise needs of the laboratory.

Discrete analysers In order to minimise operator involvement, most discrete analysers are highly automated and simple to set up and run, even overnight. A robotic sampling arm works in conjunction with a stepper motordriven syringe that is responsible for aspirating, dispensing and mixing accurate and precise quantities of sample and reagent. For example, the SEAL AQ1 and AQ2 discrete analysers can run seven different chemistries from each sample in the same run - and another seven in another run. These instruments have three separate wash stations including a probe washer, so cross-contamination is not a problem. This washing feature means that even ammonia (using phenate), nitrate by cadmium reduction (using ammonium chloride buffer) and low-level phenol can be run together with no issues. SEAL has also built an auto-dilution feature into the discrete analysers for preparing standards automatically and handling over-range samples. These diluted sample results are automatically bracketed by QC sets. The reproducibility and detection limits of discrete analysers can be optimised by ensuring that each sample is read in the same optical

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glass cuvette with a 10 mm pathlength. The sample is always read in the same position in front of the detector, which eliminates any potential issues with scratching or reaction well variability that can be found with direct-read systems. Since the liquid is moved and not the tray, fewer moving parts maximises reliability. Most discrete analysers employ miniaturised components to reduce reagent consumption and waste costs - 20 to 400 µL of reagent per sample is achievable.

Segmented flow autoanalysers Based on the original tried and tested technology of the Technicon/ Bran Luebbe AutoAnalyser, today’s SFAs deliver fast, accurate analysis for enormous numbers of samples; SEAL’s QuAAtro, for example, can run up to 600 tests/hour. SFAs are also highly automated and once the analyser is configured and the reagents and samples are loaded, reliable unattended operation is a major benefit. A basic SFA system consists of an autosampler, a peristaltic pump, a chemistry manifold, a detector and AACE data acquisition software. Sample and reagents are pumped continuously through the chemistry manifold and air bubbles are introduced at precisely defined intervals, forming unique reaction segments which are mixed using glass coils. With SFA, even slow reactions run to completion and the ratio of sample to reagents in the detector reaches a constant maximum value; the steady-state condition. SFAs have been developed for running a few parameters on a larger number of samples. Systems are in use by marine and seawater organisations and others running very low nutrient waters and by tobacco, soil and fertiliser industries around the world. These analysers provide maximum sensitivity by ensuring that the reaction always goes to completion, and with a digital true dual-beam detection system with real-time referencing, the highest reproducibility and very lowest detection limits are achieved. In summary, when choosing the most appropriate analytical technique, it is important to consider both the current and likely future needs of the laboratory. In truth, the answer to the question: “Which technique is better?” is: “It depends …” SEAL Analytical www.seal-analytical.com

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - February/March 2014

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Red cell cycle kit for flow cytometry Enzo Life Sciences’ GFP-certified Nuclear-ID

Temperature scanner

Red Cell Cycle Analysis Kit provides a con-

Fluke Calibration introduces the 1586A Super-DAQ Precision Tempera-

venient approach for studying the induction

ture Scanner. With up to 40 analog input channels and scan rates

and inhibition of cell cycle progression by

as fast as 10 channels/s, the product is suitable for applications

flow cytometry.

such as thermal mapping, process sensor calibration, quality control

The kit is suitable for: determining the per-

testing, life cycle testing,

centage of cells in a given sample that are

process monitoring and

in G0/G1, S and G2/M phases, as well as to

environmental testing

quantify cells in the sub-G1 phase; and DNA

common in industries

studies in live, permeabilised and fixed cells

including pharmaceuti-

for normal cell lines and cell lines exhibiting

cal, biotechnology, food

multiple ploidy levels. A control cell cycle

processing, aerospace

perturbation agent, Nocodazole, is provided

and automotive.

for monitoring changes in cell cycle dynamics.

With the flexibility of both internal and external input modules, the unit is designed for use on the factory floor where channel count and scan speeds are important and in the calibration laboratory where accuracy and quick input connections are required. The device can measure thermocouples, platinum resistance thermometers (PRTs), thermistors, DC current, DC voltage and resistance. It offers accuracy of ±0.005°C for PRTs, 0.5°C for thermocouples Potential applications for live-cell studies are

and 0.002°C for thermistors. The product has a colour display with channel indicators that can

in the determination of cellular DNA content

chart up to four channels simultaneously. It features four modes of

and cell cycle distribution for the detection

operation (scan, monitor, measure and digital multimeter) and alarms

of variations in growth patterns, for monitor-

that indicate when a channel measurement exceeds an assigned

ing apoptosis, and for evaluating tumour cell

high or low limit. It has 20 MB of onboard memory for storing data

behaviour and suppressor gene mechanisms.

and configuration files, a USB port to collect and store files directly

The kit’s bright, photostable red dye yields

to a USB drive and a LAN interface for easy connection to PCs and

high sensitivity, plus the highly cell-permeable

networks. It also includes a dedicated RS232 interface to control

dye minimises cell density optimisation. Avail-

Fluke Calibration drywells or temperature baths for automated tests.

able as a complete kit with controls or as a stand-alone dye, the product is suitable for

Fluke Australia Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V719

multiplexing with green fluorophores, including GFP and FITC. United Bioresearch Products

Online qPCR assay design tool

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V629

Sigma Life Science offers an enhanced version of its comprehensive online qPCR assay design tool - OligoArchitect. It is a freely available online tool for the automated design of primers and probes for quantitative real-time PCR assays. Powered by the industry-standard Beacon Designer platform from Premier Biosoft, the product supports researchers’ easy use of Sigma Life Science’s qPCR probes, reagents and oligonucleotide services. The easy-to-use software is now able to create designs with locked nucleic acid (LNA) for dual-labelled probes, molecular beacons and LightCycler probes. LNA is a DNA base modification that increases thermal stability and hybridisation specificity, which in turn allows for easier and more specific designs for problematic target sequences. Sigma Aldrich Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V267

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WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - February/March 2014

31


Chilled mirror hygrometer The S8000 RS from Michell Instruments is a suitable reference instrument for smaller calibration laboratories. The small and light hygrometer enables small calibration laboratories to extend their service to humidity calibration without needing to extend their premises. The instrument also suits in-house reference labs at larger organisations.

EDXRF method for elemental analysis of S, V, Ni in crude oil Applied Rigaku Technologies has published an application report that details the analysis of sulfur, vanadium and nickel in crude oil using the Rigaku NEX QC+ energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) analyser. The report includes information about sample preparation, method calibration and repeatability. Sulfur (S), vanadium (V) and nickel (Ni) occur naturally in crude oil, but their concentrations vary depending on the geographical region of the oil deposits. Vanadium and nickel can taint the refining process during crude oil cracking, thereby making crude oil with low levels of vanadium and nickel advantageous. In oil fields and off-shore wells, a quick and easy means of screening for vanadium and nickel is essential for characterising the quality

The S8000 RS Precision Chilled Mirror Hygrometer measures dew points down to -90°C (0.1 ppmv) with an accuracy of ±0.1°C. However, unlike many other hygrometers, no additional external cooling equipment is needed to accurately reach these dry dew points. The product is designed to fit into a 17″ rack, its compact design made possible because of a sophisticated optical system that

of the crude prior to refining. Rigaku fulfils such analytical industry requirements with the NEX QC series of EDXRF analysers. Empirical calibrations were built using a suite of 10 commercially available mineral oil calibration standards, and two calibration standards were measured in 10 repeat analyses to demonstrate precision. Analysis was performed using the Rigaku NEX QC+ high-resolution benchtop EDXRF analyser, optimised for rapid qualitative and quantitative elemental analysis. The spectra presented demonstrate the multielement capability of the spectrometer for analysing crude oils and show good sensitivity and detection limits for the critical elements. Fast and simple, the analyser is a suitable tool for monitoring the concentrations of vanadium and nickel in crude, as well as the sulfur content, enabling thorough evaluation of the quality of the refining process.

detects very small changes in mois-

Australian X-Ray Tubes Pty Ltd

ture condensed on the mirror surface.

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U713

This guarantees high sensitivity and fast response when measuring low dew points. With a high-contrast LCD touch screen, the device is easy to operate and interrogate. USB or ethernet connections are supplied to enable remote operation and data logging

Carbon dioxide transmitters

via a PC or network. The instrument

The Vaisala Carbocap Carbon Di-

is available with a 5-point calibration,

oxide Transmitter Series GMT220

traceable to national standards, with

is designed to measure carbon

UKAS accredited calibration available.

dioxide in harsh and humid envi-

AMS Instrumentation & Calibration Pty Ltd

ronments, eg, incubators.

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/Q163

measurement capabilities. Its critical parts are made of silicon, giving the sensor good stability

The transmitters incorporate the company’s Carbocap sensor, featuring special reference over both time and temperature. The user has a choice of measurement ranges up to 20% of CO 2. The GMT221 is for higher (%) concentrations of CO2 and the GMT222 for lower (ppm) concentrations of CO2. The GMT220 probes are interchangeable for easy maintenance. They can be removed and reattached or replaced at any time, without the need for calibration and adjustment. Vaisala Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U729

32

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - February/March 2014

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Photo credit: Heli Vilmi. The sample is placed directly on the exposed surface of the image sensor chip.

A mini microscope from a mobile phone camera

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uropean researchers have found that, by modifying simple imaging devices into mini microscopes, they can prevent the misdiagnosis of parasitic infections - particularly in resourcedeficient areas where such infections are common. Their study has been published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The researchers - from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), University of Helsinki and Karolinska Institutet - stated in the study, “Microscopy, being relatively easy to perform at low cost, is the universal diagnostic method for detection of most globally important parasitic infections.” But methods developed in well-equipped laboratories are difficult to maintain at more basic levels of the healthcare system due to lack of adequately trained personnel and resources thus, misdiagnosis is common. The team, led by Dr Johan Lundin and Dr Ewert Linder, claims that novel techniques for high-resolution imaging and image transfer over data networks may help solve these diagnostic problems. As proof, they modified inexpensive imaging devices, including a webcam and a mobile phone camera, into a mini microscope. “Imaging can be done directly on image sensor chips [after removal of the optics], a technique

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possible to exploit commercially for the development of inexpensive ‘mini microscopes’,” the researchers said. “Images can be transferred for analysis both visually and by computer vision both at point of care and at remote locations.” The researchers used their mini microscopes to image the eggs of helminths (parasitic worms) present in the urine and stools of infected individuals. They first used this approach to detect urinary schistosomiasis, a severely under-diagnosed infection affecting hundreds of millions, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. For diagnostics at the point of care, they developed a highly specific pattern-recognition algorithm that analysed the image from the mini microscope and automatically detected the helminth eggs. Four out of five eggs observed visually could be identified. The resolution of the microscope was dependent on the pixel size of the sensor but sufficient for identification of several pathogenic parasites. The researchers thus concluded that “parasitic worm eggs can be recognised by on-chip imaging using a webcam stripped of the optics” and that their method “offers both an inexpensive alternative to conventional microscopy and diagnostic assistance by computer vision”.

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - February/March 2014

33


my lab 34

Atomic structures and rotating anode sources By Lauren Davis A new facility at the University of Melbourne’s School of Physics has become home to a rotating anode source. The machine was installed by a team led by Professor Christopher Chantler, who noted that outside synchrotrons (of which there is only one in Australia), rotating anodes are one of the most powerful laboratory sources of X-rays. Professor Chantler explained that rotating anodes “use good conductors (copper) spinning at high frequencies to prevent the copper block from melting”. This allows much higher power and “means that you can look at structures, science, questions and collect data much faster and more incisively than with other, weaker sources”, he said. The machine is said to be the safest X-ray source in Australia, with shielding designed and constructed by the School of Physics and the University/Science Workshop. This means students can confidently carry out critical tests in fundamental atomic physics, relativistic quantum theory, X-ray calibrations and detector technology. Furthermore, the system is apparently capable of probing fundamental and applied X-ray science in more detail than any other fixed laboratory source. According to Professor Chantler, “This super X-ray machine gives us the capability of mapping the energies of the atom previously inaccessible and unseen by other apparatus.” The research team has already used the device to conduct experiments on copper atoms, which have an unusually difficult structure. The system was said to demonstrate unprecedented accuracy at the atomic level, finding that “earlier standard theory on copper does not yet explain the quantum mechanics which we observe”, said Professor Chantler. Thus, better understanding of the theory is required. “By understanding this, we can understand new applications and more complex systems too, including environmental toxicity and remediation of other systems,” he said. Two further experiments are currently being conducted in the lab, both in atomic physics. “Later there will be experiments testing new detector technology,” said Professor Chantler, “and we expect further experiments in such fields as genetics.” Indeed, the machine will be of interest to the chemical, biological and physical sciences, with the X-rays unlocking new information about the electronic properties of materials at the atomic level. The system has already received interest from Bruker and Berthold, with representatives stating that developments of new technology provide great opportunities for spin-offs and commercial development. In the meantime, though, it will be used to train students in the use of high-brightness sources, opening up opportunities at synchrotrons and free electron lasers. Professor Chantler is excited not only by the answers which will be provided by the device, but also the questions. “The ability to question our world in new ways is perhaps one of our fundamental purposes of being here,” he said. “We should not just be thinking about immediate fast-food rewards in science or technology but about transforming, empowering opportunities.”

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - February/March 2014

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What’s New in LAB & Life Sciences Feb/Mar 2014  

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