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Focusing on microscopy

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2013 VOL.24 NO.4 PP100008671


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Following the herd: and why my world is getting smaller

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he comments section of online news sites is intended to be a place where everyone can express their own opinion. But according to a study published in the journal Science, many people are heavily influenced by the positive opinions of others in such outlets, while less swayed by the negative ones. In order to see how perceptions of favourability affected people’s judgement about others’ comments, the researchers randomly altered the favourability ratings of 101,281 different comments. Through this approach, they could see how readers evaluated the same comments when those comments were given different ratings. They found that comments whose ratings were manipulated in a favourable direction saw their popularity snowball, becoming 32% more likely than untreated comments to receive a favourable rating from the next viewer of those comments and 30% more likely than untreated comments to obtain a very high favourable rating. The researchers said this “created accumulating positive herding that increased final ratings by 25% on average”. So what does this mean for me? While the researchers manipulated the ratings for their own ends, other parties with less well-meaning intentions may do the same, such as political operatives, marketers or anyone who stands to profit by creating an exaggerated appearance of popularity.  And then I’ll more than likely be taken in with the deception. Mate this effect with Amazon. Amazon regularly suggests books that it has calculated will appeal to me. All of these suggestions come with popularity ratings. If I select my reading material from these suggestions and choose the more popular offerings, my reading world becomes narrower and narrower. Once upon a time I walked into a bookshop or library and saw lots of titles - not just the ones that were supposed to appeal to me. Sometimes I selected different genres and the very act of choosing broadened my horizons. But now I am being categorised into a smaller and smaller box and I don’t like it. So I am suggesting all scientists confound the crowd-based opinion statisticians by refusing to follow the herd.

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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New imaging system uses unconventional way of focusing light 6

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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The iris component of the new imaging system, next to its human counterpart. The lens component is not pictured. Credit: Gisela and Erwin Sick Chair of Micro-optics.

For hundreds of years, optical devices like microscopes and telescopes have relied on solid lenses that slide up and down to magnify and to focus. In pursuit of ever-smaller imaging systems, researchers are now working to create entirely unconventional ways of focusing light.

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o tune how much light is received, conventional devices use mechanical contraptions like the blades that form the adjustable aperture in cameras. Now engineers from the University of Freiburg in Germany have built a novel type of imaging system inspired by the elegance and relative mechanical simplicity of the human eye. The technology may one day lead to new imaging instruments and microscopes for use in medicine and scientific research, such as devices for detecting early signs of skin cancer or early visual cues for food spoilage. The new imaging system is the first to demonstrate the imaging capabilities of some of these unusual focusing techniques by replacing conventional, solid lenses with the combination of a malleable lens and a liquid iris-like component. And, the researchers report, their device focuses light almost as well as its biological counterpart in people. They described their new imaging system in a paper published in The Optical Society’s (OSA) journal Optics Letters. Though the image processing that happens in the human brain and eye is complex, the mechanical apparatus is relatively simple. It consists of muscles that deform a stretchable lens to change the focal length, the distance between the lens and the point at which rays of light are brought to a focus. The eye’s iris opens and closes to control the amount of light that can pass through the lens. But as engineers try to shrink the size and expand the capabilities of these instruments, the imaging systems they create become overly complex and expensive. Instead of using complicated mechanisms that require moving parts to tune the focus and adjust the aperture, the Freiburg researchers looked to the eye. “What we’re doing now is a completely different means of doing the tuning,” said Hans Zappe, the Gisela and Erwin Sick Professor of Micro-optics at the University of Freiburg and co-author of the paper. For their new device, the researchers used two imaging elements that they had demonstrated previously but had never

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combined into a single system. They made a lens of silicone surrounded by several miniaturised motors that adjust the focus by deforming the lens. “You can squeeze and stretch it just like your eye squeezes and stretches its lens to adjust its focal length,” Zappe explained. In front of the lens they included an irislike component, which contains two liquids enclosed in a single flat chamber. One liquid is opaque and surrounds the clear liquid, forming what looks like a donut of black ink. Because the clear liquid is oil based while the dark liquid is water based, they stay separated. And since both liquids have exactly the same density, they remain in place even if you shake or rotate the device. Applying an electrical voltage to these liquids changes some of their properties, such as the way a droplet beads up on a surface. This behaviour, called electrowetting, allowed the researchers to manipulate the liquid, expanding and contracting the dark ring to let in more or less light through the clear liquid at the centre. Zappe and his team have tested and characterised the optics of their device in detail, analysing how much it would distort an image. Each of the two main components - the iris-like liquids and the deformable lens - can be designed to compensate for any aberrations in the other, resulting in better optical quality than would be expected if you were to consider the two components separately, Zappe said. While the new device may not be as good as the best conventional visual imagers, it is state of the art for a tunable lens, he said. The cylindrical device described in the new paper is roughly three centimetres in diameter and five centimetres long, and although the researchers plan to shrink the design a bit more, making a miniature version isn’t their primary goal, since optical quality is inherently limited with smaller sizes. Instead, Zappe said, they hope to add more functionality. “What we’re looking at is to make really high-quality images where we have the ability to image things that a normal person wouldn’t be able to see,” he explained.

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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© iStockphoto.com/AlexRaths

Through-focus scanning optical microscopy A technique developed several years ago at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for improving optical microscopes has now been applied to monitoring the next generation of computer chip circuit components, potentially providing the semiconductor industry with a crucial tool for improving chips for the next decade or more.

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he technique, called through-focus scanning optical microscopy (TSOM), has now been shown able to detect tiny differences in the three-dimensional shapes of circuit components which, until very recently, have been essentially two-dimensional objects. TSOM is sensitive to features that are as small as 10 nanometers (nm) across, perhaps smaller - addressing some important industry measurement challenges for the near future for manufacturing process control and helping maintain the viability of optical microscopy in electronics manufacturing. For decades, computer chips have resembled city maps in which components are essentially flat. But as designers strive to pack more components onto chips, they have reached the same conclusion as city planners: The only direction left to build is upwards. New generations of chips feature 3D structures that stack components atop one another, but ensuring these components are all made to the right shapes and sizes requires a whole new dimension - literally - of measurement capability. "Previously, all we needed to do was show we could accurately measure the width of a line a certain number of nanometres across," explains NIST’s Ravikiran Attota. "Now, we will need to measure all sides of a three-dimensional structure that has more nooks and crannies than many modern buildings. And the nature of light makes that difficult." Part of the trouble is that components now are growing so small that a light beam can't quite get at them. Optical microscopes are normally limited to features larger than about half the wavelength

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of the light used - about 250 nm for green light. So microscopists have worked around the issue by lining up a bunch of identical components at regular distances apart and observing how light scatters off the group and fitting the data with optical models to determine the dimensions. But these optical measurements, as currently used in manufacturing, have great difficulty measuring newer 3D structures. Other non-optical methods of imaging, such as scanning probe microscopy, are expensive and slow, so the NIST team decided to test the abilities of TSOM, a technique that Attota played a major role in developing. The method uses a conventional optical microscope but, rather than taking a single image, it collects 2D images at different focal positions forming a 3D data space. A computer then extracts brightness profiles from these multiple out-of-focus images and uses the differences between them to construct the TSOM image. The TSOM images it provides are somewhat abstract, but the differences between them are still clear enough to infer minute shape differences in the measured structures - bypassing the use of optical models, which introduce complexities that industry must face. “Our simulation studies show that TSOM might measure features as small as 10 nm or smaller, which would be enough for the semiconductor industry for another decade,” Attota says. “And we can look at anything with TSOM, not just circuits. It could become useful to any field where 3D shape analysis of tiny objects is needed.”

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D-serine colorimetric assay kit

Parvovirus B19 molecular assay

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mon and occurs worldwide, with epidemics

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following a 3- to 4-year cycle. The virus is

The D-Serine Colorimetric Assay Kit from Cosmo Bio employs the D-form specific

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in transient aplastic crisis (TAC). Chronic B19V infection can lead to persistent and severe anaemia and is also associated with condi-

Automatic microplate washer Biobase has produced the Auto Microplate Washer, controlled by a microprocessor, which is precise and easy to use. The washer can automatically complete single- or multi-row washing. The unit can be adapted to 96- and 48-well microplates and regulates the rinse position of the cleaning head according to the user’s requirement. Washing parameters can be set for different effects, with external programming available through RS232 ports. Features include five ways of automatic washing, memory for 100 programs, 1-20 wash cycles and anti-overflow.

tions such as arthropathy, glomerulonephritis and neurological disease. Calibrated against the WHO standard for B19V, the product is said to provide very good time-to-result benefits when compared to PCR, with equivalent specificity. The Liaison Iam instrument uses the company’s Q-LAMP technology - rapid, real-time, fluorescent, quantitative/qualitative assays designed to be used for multiplexed applications, enabling amplification and detection of multiple targets in a single reaction. DiaSorin Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U489

Crea Laboratory Technologies Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U583

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Directional control valves Nordhydraulic is a manufacturer of directional control valves for mobile applications. The company’s hydraulic directional spool valves fulfil the requirements of truck loading cranes, excavators, skip loaders/demountable bodies, wheel loaders, forestry equipment and other specialised machinery. The valves are characterised by advanced design solutions, including customised spools. Nordhydraulic has a network of suppliers and partners, along with HYDAC’s own foundry and production, providing the capacity to serve all users regardless of sizes and volumes. Cutting-edge expertise is constantly on hand. Adequate quality requires control of every step of the production process, from casting to complete product. It is for this reason that HYDAC has its own foundry, specialising in casting grey and spheroidal graphite cast iron. HYDAC International Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U281

Immunoassay platform Cira by Aushon is an immunoassay platform that combines productivity with precision. It has the consistency of singleplex ELISA while delivering on the throughput and increased sensitivity of multiplexing. The product features several synergistic improvements. Cirascan combines astronomy-grade imaging with sophisticated Cirasoft software to enhance signal-to-noise ratio by analysing only the precise coordinates of the spots, thus improving sensitivity and dynamic range. Ciraplex assays have up to 12 analytes per well, printed in circular pattern by the company’s ultraprecise microarray printer. This geometry avoids the ‘black hole’ of lower signal in the centre of each well, leveraging static and dynamic fluid properties to provide consistent incubation on all 12 spots with low sample volume. As a result, Ciraplex can offer sensitivity greater than ELISA and high reproducibility in a multiplexing format. Cirareports summarises multiplate studies simply and quickly. Pacific Laboratory Products

Bottle-top dispensers

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The latest Socorex bottle-top dispensers are tailor made for each laboratory,

Temperature and humidity loggers

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The device can interface with the company’s Veriteq viewLinc software for Continuous Monitoring System, providing the ability to view, download, store and graph condition information. Vaisala Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U733

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with improved chemical resistance.

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

user-friendly yet robust. They are fully autoclavable and easy to calibrate. Interpath Services Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U287

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CASE STUDY

Biomolecule engineering with nanoparticle tracking analysis Particle & Surface Sciences has reported on how nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA), from NanoSight UK, is being used in the research project ‘Engineering of Biomolecules’ at Lorraine University, based in Nancy. Dr Jordane Jasniewski works at the Laboratory of Biomolecules Engineering (LIBio) at Lorraine University and teaches in Food Chemistry at ENSAIA, an engineering school. He is a member of the research team working on the engineering of biomolecules to understand their structure and function to help develop new molecular architectures, to be applied in the areas of foods and agrichemicals, nutrition, pharmacology and cosmetics. The expertise of LIBio allows the study of stabilisation, functionalisation and targeting of active molecules such as probiotics, antibacterial peptides, phenolic antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Based on vectors of rich marine DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid), new dairy matrices, phospholipids and biopolymers are being developed. Dr Jasniewski described the reasons for his selection of NTA for the measurement of the hydrodynamic diameter, Dh, of his nanoemulsion samples. “Our samples, which include polysaccharides, milk proteins and lecithins, are polydisperse. Having used dynamic light scattering, DLS, without success, we decided on NTA as it makes measurements on a particle-by-particle basis and does not need the refractive index to determine Dh. We can also readily measure the concentration of our samples and data is produced in a convenient way to export and use for further study.” Particle & Surface Sciences Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U264

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© iStockphoto.com/artenot

Why taller people are smarter On average, taller people tend to be slightly smarter. The modest correlation between height and IQ has been documented in multiple studies stretching back to the 1970s. But the reasons for the relationship between the two traits have not been well understood.

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esearchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have been investigating this phenomenon using twins and their families and have found that two factors are involved - the same genes affect both height and brain power and taller people are more likely than average to mate with smarter people. The study did not find that environmental factors contributed to the connection between being taller and being smarter, both traits that people tend to find attractive. The technique developed by the researchers to tease out those reasons may open the door for scientists to better understand why other sexually selected traits - characteristics that individuals find desirable in mates - tend to be linked. People who are attractive because of one trait tend to have other attractive traits as well. “Not just in humans but also in animals, you see that traits that are sexually attractive tend to be correlated,” said Matthew Keller, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU-Boulder and lead author of the study appearing in the journal PLOS Genetics. “So if you have animals that are high on one sexually selected trait they are often high on other ones, too. And the question has always been, ‘What’s the cause of that?’ And it has always been very difficult to tease apart the two potential genetic reasons that those could be related.” The key to the technique developed by Keller, also a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Institute for Behavioral Genetics, and his colleagues is using data collected about fraternal twins, identical twins and, importantly, their parents.

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It has been common in the past to use information about identical twins and fraternal twins to determine whether a particular trait is inherited, caused by environmental factors or affected by some combination of both. This kind of twin study assumes that each twin grows up with the same environmental factors as his or her sibling. If a trait that’s present in one twin is just as often present in the other - regardless of whether the twins are fraternal or identical - then the trait is likely caused by environmental conditions. On the other hand, if a trait is generally found in both identical twins but only in one of a set of fraternal twins, it’s likely that the trait is inherited, since identical twins have the same genetic material but fraternal twins do not. Similar studies also can be done for linked traits, such as height and IQ. But while scientists could determine that a pair of traits is passed down genetically, they could not further resolve whether inherited traits were linked due to the same genes influencing both traits, called ‘pleiotropy’, or because people who have those traits are more likely to mate with each other, known as ‘assortative mating’. The latest CU-Boulder study solves this problem by including the parents of twins in its analysis. While this has occasionally been done in the past for single traits, information on parents has not previously been used to shed light on why two traits are genetically correlated. In part, that’s because existing twin registries, where information for heritability studies is drawn, don’t often contain information on the parents.

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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... IT ALSO LOOKS LIKE PEOPLE WHO ARE TALLER ARE SLIGHTLY MORE LIKELY TO CHOOSE MATES WHO ARE SMARTER AND VICE VERSA.

Additionally, creating the computer programs that are necessary to crunch the data for multiple traits from twins and their parents in order to understand environmental effects and both types of genetic effects is difficult. “These designs have never taken off because they’re very difficult to code,” Keller said. “It’s a challenge. They’re very complicated models.” For this study, the research team used data collected from 7905 individuals - including twins and their parents - by the Colorado Twin Registry at CU-Boulder and the Queensland Twin Registry at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia. Keller and his colleagues found that for the twins in their study, the correlation between height and IQ was not impacted by environmental conditions. Though Keller cautions that in societies where there is more nutritional variation among families, environmental factors could come into play.

The research team found that pleiotropy and assortative mating were about equally responsible for the genetic connection between height and IQ. “It does look like there are genes that influence both height and IQ,” Keller said. “At the same time, it also looks like people who are taller are slightly more likely to choose mates who are smarter and vice versa. Such mate choice causes ‘IQ genes’ and ‘tall genes’ to become statistically associated with one another. There are a lot of exceptions, but there’s a statistical relationship that does happen more than would be expected by chance.” Now that the CU-Boulder team has built a computer model that is capable of disentangling the causes for linked traits, Keller said he hopes twin registries will begin to collect more data from parents and that other people in the field take advantage of the model.

Cabinet for flammable and corrosive goods Safety product specialist Actisafe has designed a flammable and corrosive goods storage cabinet suitable for the storage of corrosive materials and pesticides in completely safe and secure conditions. Known as Actistor, the item can be made to customised sizes and powder coated in any required safety colour. It features dual vents and flash arrestors. The flammable and corrosive goods storage cabinet is suitable for all sectors including defence, manufacturing, mining, construction, the auto sector and agriculture. Rated to AS 1940, AS 3780 and AS 2714, the goods cabinet has a double wall with a 40 mm air gap acting as a thermal barrier for added security and protection. There is no chance of spillage or run-off into the general working areas because the product is a totally bunded cabinet. It is ruggedised and built to last for years in tough work conditions. For high integrated security, a double-barrel locking system uses both a key and a padlock. All hinges, corner brackets and reinforcements are heavy duty to prevent wear and tear during constant use. Actisafe Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U940

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Single analyte microarray Q-Plex Singleplex assays are single analyte microarrays used to measure a range of human cytokines. The kits adopt high dynamic range (HDR) technology to measure a significantly greater quantifiable range compared to traditional ELISAs. HDR technology involves the use of antibodies optimised for highand low-range measurement of specific analytes. The antibodies are printed in planar arrays at the bottom of each microplate well, along with a reference spot for convenient imaging. QView Software combines the data from all the microspots using a proprietary algorithm based on five-parameter logistic regression modelling. This ensures quality analyte readings with maximum low-end sensitivity and peak high-end quantification. Kits are efficient and easy to run, requiring only 50 µL per sample and using a protocol similar to traditional ELISAs. The expanded range across the standard curve means fewer dilutions per sample; better sensitivity than traditional ELISAs to capture low analyte levels; and the higher end range captures data for concentrated samples. The intra-well precision from replicate microspots also provides greater surety of results. Sapphire Bioscience Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U142

Spectrophotometer range Eppendorf offers a full range of spectrophotometers: from the entry-level D30, specifically for DNA, RNA and protein quantitation, to the full-spectrum tuneable, kinetic and scanning systems - the Basic and Kinetic models - which read from 200-830 nm, <4 nm bandwidth, are fully programmable and can integrate with a PC or operate stand-alone.

Dewpoint and temperature transmitter series The Vaisala Drycap Dewpoint and Temperature Transmitter Series DMT340 is designed for industrial low-humidity applications. The device measures dew points from -60 to 80°C with the accuracy of ±2°C. The sensor is immune to particulate contamination, water condensation, oil vapour and most chemicals. The unit can be

In addition, the Biospectrometer Fluo-

ordered with a large numerical and graphical display. It allows

rescence can increase the possibilities.

the user to monitor measurement trends and one-year history.

The user can utilise the micro Cuvette

The product can be connected to a network with an optional

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Point of Care Diagnostics Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/T811

Vaisala Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U747

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CASE STUDY

Automated colony counter speeds up vaccine testing Synbiosis, a manufacturer of automated microbiological systems, has announced that its ProtoCOL 3 automated colony counter is being successfully used at UK vaccine company ImmunoBiology (ImmBio) in Cambridge to speed up testing throughput of its bacterial meningitis vaccines. The purchase of the ProtoCOL 3 by ImmBio is supported by a research and development grant from the Technology Strategy Board as part of the government-backed Biomedical Catalyst. The scientists are using it to count thousands of small colonies of Neisseria meningitidis plated out post serum bactericidal assay (SBA). The ProtoCOL 3 is helping the researchers to rapidly determine the efficacy of new vaccines against bacterial meningitis. Claire Entwisle, Head of Laboratory at ImmBio, explained: “Regulatory requirements mean we have to use an SBA test to establish vaccine efficacy and, since we are testing a number of different prototype vaccines, we count around 100-150 colonies in each of eight streaks on a square SBA plate. We have around 70 of these plates to count every week so this would be timeconsuming and difficult to maintain consistency of results if we did it manually. We visited the NIBSC [National Institute for Biological Standards and Control] to see what their scientists used to quality assure bacterial vaccines. That’s when we saw the ProtoCOL software and knew this would help us speed up our testing efforts. “The ProtoCOL 3 is manufactured in Cambridge, giving us added confidence, and the system comes with a specific software program for analysing SBA plates, both of which swayed our decision to purchase the ProtoCOL 3 for our work. For us, the benefits of using the system are saving time, as well as accuracy and consistency of count. Many of our colonies are very close together or touching and the software copes well with interpreting these. We are so pleased with the way the ProtoCOL 3 performs that we even intend to use it in future for the more difficult application of counting Streptococcus pneumoniae colonies on blood agar plates as we know that the lighting options on the ProtoCOL 3 will allow us to distinguish and count the almost opaque red colonies on a red background.” Martin Smith at Synbiosis commented: “Bacterial meningitis is a serious illness and we’re delighted to hear the ProtoCOL 3 is helping scientists at this innovative Cambridge vaccine company to help improve the productivity of their important vaccine trials. The ProtoCOL 3 system’s unique lighting and software combination has been developed over a decade until it is now widely acknowledged internationally as the leading technology for post SBA colony count analysis. The studies at ImmBio further demonstrate how adding a ProtoCOL 3 automated colony counter to an SBA workflow can significantly speed up the development of novel bacterial vaccines.” Don Whitley Scientific Pty Limited Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/T678

Gel electrophoresis unit The MultiSUB Midi has been designed for routine horizontal gel electrophoresis and it is suitable for rapid electrophoresis, such as quick checks of samples from PCR and cloning. The MultiSUB MidiDUO is a package that comes with both the 10 x 7 cm and 10 x 10 cm UV tray, 2 x 16 sample combs, loading guides and dams. The product has a low buffer volume and runs up to 100 samples. Edwards Group Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V220

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Laboratory balances As part of Nuweigh Australia’s

CD spectrometers Chiroptical spectroscopy is a leading technique for advanced biomolecular characterisation and stereochemical analysis. Jasco has introduced the J-1000 Series Circular Dichroism (CD) Spectrometers, claimed to provide unparalleled optical performance and versatile flexibility. The series offers high sensitivity, with a wide spectral range from vacuum UV to NIR wavelengths (up to 1600 nm for J-1500). Two models are available. The J-1100 CD Spectrometer is designed for routine, conventional CD applications in a compact, lower-cost package. Its simple yet powerful design is suited for research as well as being an effective tool for teaching CD in academic environments. The J-1500 CD Spectrometer is designed as a multipurpose, flexible system with a wide dynamic range to meet the most demanding of CD applications with high sensitivity. The latest Simultaneous Multi-Probe (SMP) measurement allows simultaneous acquisition of up to four data channels including CD, linear dichroism, absorbance, fluorescence, anisotropy, ORD, temperature, kinetics and more. Other features include a compact bench-top design, ultra-high-speed scanning, extremely low stray light, high signal-to-noise ratio and a flexible design with accessories for upgrades as applications evolve. Applications include temperature ramping, protein folding, protein conformation, DNA/RNA interaction, enzyme kinetics, purity testing of optically active substances, quantitative analysis of pharmaceuticals, natural products chemistry, biochemistry and macromolecules, rapid scanning (time resolved) experiments and more.

professional range of laboratory balances and accessories, the company has launched the 3Y Series of balances. The series offers a high level of functionality and performance. Features include: 5.7″ colour touch screen display; IR proximity sensors for hands-free operation; GLP statistical analysis; automatic internal calibration; semi-auto levelling control; multiple communication ports; and more. The balances are supported by an in-house NATA accredited laboratory. Newcastle Weighing Services Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V221

ATA Scientific Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U337

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© iStockphoto.com/AlexRaths

Six tips for selecting a laboratory workstation

James Anderson*

Buying technician workstations for your laboratory is a major capital expense, deserving of careful consideration to avoid making a costly mistake. The choice can be complicated and there are a number of factors that you should consider. The key ones include initial purchase price, long-term ownership cost, laboratory layout and workstation design, supplier support services and flexibility. This last one is especially tricky, since it requires a bit of a crystal ball to make sure your choice supports changing laboratory environments, due to expansion and consolidation, as well as changing trends in equipment design and usage.

F

ollow these six tips for selecting a laboratory workstation that meets all your current needs, while positioning you to adapt to whatever comes down the parkway.

1. Count up all the costs - not just the obvious ones Be sure to factor in all related costs - don’t just look at the bottom line for the workstation. To the purchase price you should add shipping costs; installation costs; time, cost and complexity of adjusting individual workstations; costs for addon accessories (eg, shelves, storage, and tool and equipment holders); reconfiguration costs (should you want to convert single-sided workstations to double-sided in future); and, of course, the expected lifetime of the product and the need to replace it. Consider how you might be able to reduce your floor space requirements (and costs) by maximising your use of vertical space, which minimises the workstation footprint.

2. Consider your future business plans Are you planning to expand, reorganise or relocate? Changes in processes and techniques also may mean changing workstation layout, so consider modular, movable furnishings that can be easily expanded or rearranged. If you are located in a rented or

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leased space, built-in workstations may limit flexibility and result in additional costs for repairing walls and floors if you move.

3. Pay careful attention to ergonomics A comfortable employee is a productive employee. Laboratories can sometimes be the source of repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), which result in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The number one factor in addressing these ergonomic concerns is selecting equipment that allows employees to rearrange and adjust workstation elements easily. Technicians come in all shapes and sizes, so make sure they can raise, lower or change the tilt angle of workstation shelves; add or remove shelves; change the height or tilt angle of work surfaces; change the height or direction of lighting; raise or lower the height of footrests; and mount or relocate tools, equipment and storage on either side of a workstation. Figure 1 is a graphic illustrating the preferred horizontal and vertical reach zones you should work with.

4. Consider how your laboratory will adapt to changing equipment use In recent years, the equipment used to execute essential tasks in laboratories has been changing dramatically. None of us has the proverbial crystal ball, but before putting down your hard-earned

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

23


Figure 1: Reach zones.

Figure 2: Flexible workstation.

dollars on a workstation, review this list of laboratory trends and try to determine which items may affect your operations. Then make sure the workstation you select can support them. • Increased use of high-speed electric and air hand tools • Central suction featuring variable port control • Laser welding replacing soldering • Vacuum-pressure induction casting • I ncreased use of computers featuring scanning and CAD systems • 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) technology

Avoid workstations designed around a single task or process, and instead opt for workstations that can address different applications within the laboratory. A flexible, modular design with common, interchangeable components and with provisions to accommodate a wide variety of work surfaces, drawers, shelves and other accessories can be used in a variety of departments and for numerous functions.

5. Build in flexibility

A reliable supplier can be your partner in selecting the right workstation. For laboratories that operate from multiple locations, be sure the supplier has support branches near all locations. Ask about support services, such as laboratory layout and design, ability to customise purchased products, installation services and training.

We discussed earlier the importance of making sure your laboratory adequately considers your future plans, but flexibility is so important that it deserves its own tip. Your workstations should be able to support any major layout redesign due to expansion, the changing nature of the work or departmental reorganisation. Don’t let your workstations present an obstacle to growth. Truly modular and flexible workstations permit a variety of layout designs by sharing interchangeable components. Your choices include inline, back-to-back, L, C or X configurations. Having said that, when building in flexibility, always keep in mind conversion costs associated with changing workstation layouts. Achieving flexibility without discarding parts you’ve already invested in is your goal. Figure 2 is an example of a Lista Modular Technician workstation that can be used for a variety of tasks.

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6. Make sure you have access to the support you need

*James Anderson is the Vertical Markets and National Accounts Manager for Stanley Workplace Solutions. He has over 25 years of experience in the industry and is an expert on ergonomic workspace solutions.

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Online rheometer for food products The OnLine Rheometer (OLR) continuously measures, plots and reports the flow properties of liquids in process pipes. It assists process monitoring, process control and quality control of liquids in the processing and manufacturing of food products. Flow properties that influence processability or mouthfeel like viscosity, tack, elasticity and body are important for a variety of products in the food industry. The OLR is able to make measurements that directly relate to these variables and provide feedback to the operator in real time. The operator can thus make informed process decisions about the quality of the material in the pipe and make changes as appropriate. The product can reduce or remove waiting times associated with laboratory testing, removing production bottlenecks and increasing effective production capacity. Consumer-critical parameters such as mouthfeel can be monitored online so that satisfaction with the final product can be better assured during production rather than post-production from a taste panel assessment. The

Triple quadrupole LC-MS/MS Shimadzu introduces the LCMS-8050 triple

product will consistently measure the properties that define critical mouthfeel attributes that have been previously evaluated as preferred and important from pilot product tests with taste panels.

quadrupole mass spectrometer. The device

The device is tuned to frequencies that probe the relevant microstructure and

features high-sensitivity quantitation delivered

provides measurements that can be easily correlated to the attributes of interest.

at high speed, multicomponent analysis per-

The product’s software, SOLR, allows the process/production engineer to select

formed rapidly and simultaneous quantitative

a range of frequencies and monitor the measurements at these frequencies

and qualitative analyses.

over the course of the production process in real time. Once a signature of a

The product’s performance is a result of the further development of the company’s ultra-

good product is set, the process can be controlled/monitored so that products remain in spec for all subsequent batches.

fast MS technologies such as UF Switching,

Advantages of the product include: fast, reliable, real-time results; low main-

UF Scanning and UF MRM. Combined with

tenance; out-of-specification diagnosis; plug-and-play installation; precise and

advances in sensitivity, the unit delivers high

robust sensor system; process control; process monitoring; quality control.

performance and detectability for trace-level

Rheology Solutions Pty Ltd

multianalyte analysis. Advances include 5 ms

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/T847

polarity switching, true 30,000 µ/s scanning and 555 MRM transitions/s. The sensitivity gains deliver attogramlevel reproducible quantitation for Verapamil, demonstrating the utility of the instrument for trace clinical applications and environmental applications without the need for sample pre-

15 mL centrifuge tube

concentration. This has been achieved with a

The Cellstar CELLreactor from

small inlet orifice that doesn’t require higher

Greiner Bio-One is a 15 mL poly-

vacuum pumping capacity, resulting in lower

propylene centrifuge tube with a

maintenance and cleaning and a lower cost of

0.2 µ PTFE membrane contained

ownership of the instrument over its lifetime.

within the screw cap to facilitate

Design innovations include tool- and

cell growth while still providing a

cable-free source changeover. The source

sterile environment.

is robust and requires minimal adjustment.

The tube can be used as a small

User maintenance and cleaning is simplified

bioreactor to cultivate suspension cells.

with an accessible API source area and a

It can also be used for the culture of aerobic

desolvation line that can be removed without

bacteria, yeasts and other microorganisms.

breaking MS vacuum. Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (Oceania) Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U886

Suitable for work with spheroids, there is no need for transfer of cells for harvest as they can be centrifuged directly in the tube. 50 mL tubes are also available. Interpath Services Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U891

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WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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SCHOTT Australia & New Zealand Pty. Ltd. Unit 1, 4 Skyline Place Frenchs Forest 2086 NSW www.schott.com/australia


Robot station with artificial vision system RV3/EV is an innovative trainer in the field of robotics with artificial vision systems, designed and manufactured by Elettronica Veneta. Industrial robotics is one of the most successful areas for the application of artificial vision systems. The vision system is particularly useful as a robot control device. The vision is able to locate the geometric profile of an object within an area, providing the necessary coordinates to the robot for picking up the object. The training program includes the following subjects: structure of a six-axis robot; analysis of a robot operation; analysis of the motion techniques; analysis of the control software with particular attention to motion algorithms and self-learning; industrial applications of the robot; electrical drives for robotics; artificial vision; load capacity and motion speeds; working environment safety; PC robot programming and use of the teaching box. Duff & Macintosh

Modular ventilation and filtration systems

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U325

Air Science Vent-Box modular ventilation and filtration systems offer protection against chemical inhalation risks without expensive,

qPCR assay plates

energy-consuming duct work. They are de-

Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT) has announced the launch of PrimeTime

signed to protect laboratory personnel from

qPCR Assay Plates for high-throughput qPCR analysis. Primers and probes

chemical vapours found inside stand-alone

for 5 -nuclease and intercalating dye assays can now be ordered in a

chemical safety storage cabinets.

96-well plate format, eliminating the time-consuming transfer of primers and

The product serves as a modular ventilation

probes from reagent stocks and streamlining the reaction set-up. The plates

and filtration system for all chemical safety

are suitable for applications that generate large quantities of data, such as

cabinets. Applications include flexible cabi-

validation of NGS and microarray data, as well as high-throughput gene

net ventilation for the storage of flammable

expression screening.

liquid, oxidising agents, organic peroxides,

Addressing the needs of each particular qPCR assay requirement, a range

toxic substances and corrosive substances.

of primer and/or probe concentrations are available, delivered lyophilised

The system is low-profile and completely

within a 96 deep-well plate. For additional flexibility, different dye-quencher

portable, with no duct work required. Its

combinations can also be ordered on the same plate, extending the range

compact size means it is easily positioned

of assays that can be performed during a single run. Further savings are

on shallow safety cabinets. The modular

possible once a plate layout has been designed since replicate plates can

design permits multiple configurations, while

be generated at a lower total cost per reaction, making the format suited

universal connections allow it to be retrofitted

to high-throughput applications in academia and industry. 

to almost all flammable and safety cabinets

Designing and ordering custom assays in the plate format is rapid and

on the market. The product meets or exceeds

intuitive with the online PrimeTime qPCR assay tool, which allows users to

OSHA, ANSI and other international standards.

create a master plate via simple copy and paste actions from source data.

Each unit includes features expressed

Alternatively, researchers can select from a specialised library of predesigned

through sound design and certified quality

human, mouse or rat assays generated by IDT’s design engine. In addi-

construction. Options and accessories add

tion to incorporating accurate Tm and secondary structure prediction data,

functional performance to meet specific ap-

the assay design engine takes into account the latest data from the NCBI

plications.

RefSeq database to avoid off-target amplification and SNPs, thus ensuring

LAF Technologies Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U910

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maximum assay performance.   Integrated DNA Technologies Inc Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U011

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Molecular detection assay for Listeria monocytogenes

Deep-imaging multiphoton system

3M Food Safety has announced the

The Olympus FluoView FVMPE-RS

launch of its 3M Molecular Detection

multiphoton microscope system enables

Assay Listeria monocytogenes. The

high-precision, ultrafast scanning and stimu-

system provides pure and simple

lation, allowing researchers to see deep within

testing for dangerous pathogens in

specimens, take measurements at high speeds and

a variety of food matrices. Listeria

capture images even under demanding conditions.

monocytogenes remains a serious

The product is suitable for any field that requires precise colocalisation, uncaging, simultaneous imaging/stimulation, real-time signal processing or multipoint mapping. Its design offers adaptability for researchers who design their own custom-built systems. The precision timing allows for microsecond repeatability and control of multiple imaging and stimulation protocols, as well as millisecond repeatability over days of time-lapse imaging. Complex multiposition imaging or optogenetic stimulation protocols can be accomplished using the stage control and sequence manager. The system captures 438 fps at 512 x 32. It captures full-frame, 512 x 512 images at 30 fps without any reduction of the field of view. Its scanner unit combines a resonance scanner with a galvanometer scanner to provide both speed and definition. An optional third galvanometer scanner is also available. The multipoint mapping capability allows ultrahigh-speed measurement of rapid fluctuations in groups of cells. The product provides multicolour, multiphoton excitation and imaging with a choice of lasers, along with a four-axis auto-alignment capability for precise colocalisation and coalignment without pixel shift. With its multiple-laser-line performance, researchers can work with two IR laser lines simultaneously while stimulating the sample with visible light.

concern in the food processing industry. The molecular detection assays use isothermal amplification of nucleic acid sequences, plus bioluminescence to detect the amplification. Presumptive positive results are delivered in real time while negative results are displayed after the assay is completed. The product is fast and easy to use, without sacrificing sensitivity or specificity. It is applied to enriched food as well as food process samples. 3M Food Safety

Olympus Australia Pty Ltd

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V003

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V218

Whisper

Introducing a meter so fluent, it can run on a

Flow Controllers

Custom Fittings

ATEX Option

LCD/TFT Screens

Units 12-13/45 Leighton Place, Hornsby NSW 2077 Ph: 02 9482 1411 Fax: 02 9482 1489 Web Email

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WHATâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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Uncovering the best cab sav clones The local wine industry and consumers will both benefit following research to identify differences in the top cabernet sauvignon grape clones.

A

lthough the wines we drink today are from very similar varieties to those produced in Roman times, the varieties are not exactly the same. Subtle changes accumulate silently through generations of propagation. Now the wine industry is exploiting these differences to its advantage. Cutting-edge technology is being used by researchers at The University of Western Australia and Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) to plot the sites of genes along chromosomes. Assistant Professor Michael Considine, researcher with DAFWA and University of Western Australia’s School of Plant Biology, is coordinating the joint project. Different forms within a variety are known as clones, and some leading French wine clones are sold worldwide under trademark protection. Until now, researchers could only speculate on the identity of different clones, but according to Considine, “New technology is now allowing us to plot precise changes that occur in clones and take advantage of new changes that benefit the wine industry and consumers. “Differences observed in the vineyard may be due to one or more influences on the DNA - whether a single DNA mutation or through decorations on the DNA, chimeric mutations or the influence of viruses.

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“We now have the technology to distinguish these effects and, thanks to our industry partners, can make an important contribution to the Australian wine industry and benefit consumers.” Considine said wine producers would benefit from the outcomes of the research through improved crop management and productivity, and the selection of elite clones to suit grower requirements such as early ripening or the production of high-value wines. Consumers would also benefit from an improved range of wine choice and consistency, and the development of high-value wines. Cabernet sauvignon was chosen for the research because it is one of the Australian wine industry’s ‘regional heroes’ and a popular red wine variety. The project will apply cutting-edge techniques in genomics to several clones on which extensive knowledge is already available from Western Australian and South Australian improvement programs. In addition to the genomic component, the project will include vineyard studies. The three-year project has received total funding of $574,000 from the Australian Research Council. The research is supported by 24 companies represented by the WA Vine Improvement Association, prominent national retailer Yalumba and the Australian Wine Research Institute.

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

31


Tubes for 5 mL samples The Eppendorf Tube 5.0 mL system is suitable for samples in the 2-5 mL range. The product provides simple, practical and ergonomic single-hand operation. A hinged lid minimises sample evaporation during storage and incubation in a wide range of temperatures from -86 to 80°C. Tube clips are available for higher temperatures. The system is available in batch-tested and certified Eppendorf Quality, PCR Clean, Sterile and Eppendorf Biopur purity levels. The matewhich is free of plasticisers, biocides or mould

MALS detector for size-exclusion chromatography

release agents for reliable test results.

The Viscotek SEC MALS 20 is an advanced multi-angle light

rial is high-quality, transparent polypropylene

The shape is compatible with accessories for

scattering (MALS) detector for size-exclusion chromatography

conical 15 mL tubes. There is a high level of safety

(SEC/GPC). It is used to measure absolute molecular weight

and stability for centrifugation up to 25,000 x g. Eppendorf also offers a comprehensive line of accessories for the system. Eppendorf South Pacific Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V208

of proteins, synthetic and natural polymers. In conjunction with a concentration detector, molecular size (expressed as the radius of gyration) can also be determined. For proteins, the product measures the absolute molecular weight independent of column retention volume in order to study oligomeric state and aggregation. In combination with two concentration detectors, it can also measure the molecular weight of conjugates such as PEGylated and detergent-soluble proteins. For natural and synthetic poly-

Spectroscopy software

mers, MALS provides molecular weight and Rg. It also offers

Bio Rad Laboratories has announced the release of KnowItAll Informatics Sys-

insights into molecular structure through conformation plots

tem 2013 spectroscopy software. The software offers comprehensive solutions

of Rg with molecular weight.

for spectral analysis, identification, search, data management and reporting.

The product marks the end of tedious column calibration,

It supports multiple instrument vendor file formats and techniques (IR, Ra-

as MW is independent of elution volume. The device features

man, NIR, NMR, MS, UV-Vis). The software, combined with a large spectral

improved angular coverage, plus multiple low-angle (low-

reference collection (over 1.4 million spectra), helps chemists extract even

noise) detectors to improve accuracy. The unit’s vertical flow

greater knowledge from their spectral data.

cell with radial optics minimises noise. The product has a

Key benefits of the system include: additions to ATR-IR, IR, Raman, NMR

small footprint and only one cell is needed for all solvents.

and MS reference spectral collections; enhanced Raman spectrum manage-

Malvern’s static light-scattering detectors, including low-

ment; performance optimisations and workflow simplifications; advanced GC-

angle (LALS), right-angle (RALS) and multi-angle (MALS), are

MS database building and linking capabilities; support for multiple spectra

available individually and are compatible with any commercial

of the same technique within a single database record.

GPC/SEC system, or may be supplied integrated within a

Bio-Rad Laboratories Pty Ltd

multi-detection Viscotek system for comprehensive polymer,

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V019

protein and macromolecule characterisation. ATA Scientific Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U905

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CO2 incubator Suitable for cell culture, the Astec range of CO2 and multigas incubators offers size and feature variations suited to each laboratory’s requirements. The SCA-165 DRS model is a 163 L CO2 incubator, which utilises an infrared sensor that is unaffected by temperature and humidity changes inside the chamber, allowing quicker recovery to the desired CO2 level after opening. This makes it suitable for applications where chamber conditions are critical, such as with tissue culture. With its auto setup function, the unit

Microscopy imaging system

is ready to use in 12 h with precisely

The DV Elite is the latest addition to the

controlled CO2 concentration and ongo-

DeltaVision family of advanced microscopy

ing automatic two-point CO2 calibration

imaging systems from Applied Precision.

of the IR sensor. The model is also

The product is designed for maximum flexibility and can handle most applications, includ-

equipped with the dry heat sterilisation

ing time-lapse live cell imaging, total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF), fluorescence

feature, enabling the simple, effective

resonance energy transfer (FRET), photokinetics and differential interference contrast (DIC).

sterilisation of the inner chamber after

Features include: good live cell imaging performance; good focus stability for long-term imaging experiments; fully integrated for seamless operation and upgradeability; fluorescence

cleaning or changing samples.

illumination path.

Abacus ALS Australia Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U686

GE Healthcare - Biosciences Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U775

Super pH deal from

Available while stocks last

$801

plus gst

Plus Extra – Value Bonus – Free

HI2211-02

magnetic stirrer HI190MB 7.01 pH buffer solution HI7007L, 2 x 500mL 4.01 pH buffer solution HI7004L, 2 x 500mL electrode cleaning solution HI7061L, 1 x 500mL electrode storage solution HI70300L, 1 x 500mL

bench pH meter, pH electrode, temperature probe & electrode holder

$Value 312 Free Tel: 03 9769 0666

Fax: 03 9769 0699 Email: sales@hannainst.com.au

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WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

33


GC and TC detector for pyrolyser systems Most biomass contains cellulose and lignin and, when pyrolysed, generates a very complex pyrogram. The cellulose produces many highly oxygenated compounds including levoglucosan and furans, while the lignins produce primarily phenolic compounds. But both cellulose and lignin produce fixed gases including methane, carbon monoxide and water.

Customisation for panel products

For several reasons, these are difficult to analyse

The nCounter Panel-Plus and CodeSet-Plus products add flexibility to nCounter

using a standard capillary GC-MS so they are often

experiments. Researchers can now customise any off-the-shelf panel kit or add

overlooked. To better understand the levels of these

genes to any custom CodeSet by using up to 30 Reporter Codes exclusively

fixed gases, CDS has designed an add-on feature to

formulated for use in the products.

its trapping pyrolysers. By adding a small GC and

The devices are compatible with all gene expression and CNV products,

TC detector to the outlet of the analytical trap, the

including single-cell applications. Users can customise panels by adding up to

user will now be capable of analysing for the fixed

30 of their favourite genes or a collection of specific controls.

gases that are normally purged from the system

Using results from experiments and adding new genes along the way, the

before analysing pyrolysates from a sample.

CodeSet will be kept updated. Multiple specific control sets can be created for

The model 5500 is a pre-packaged GC-TCD which

use with different sample or cell types. The gene list can be finalised quickly,

is a true plug-and-play option that is easily added

with more genes added later.

to both new and existing CDS pyrolyser systems.

Bio-Strategy Pty Ltd

DKSH Australia Pty Ltd

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V243

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V018

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WHATâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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Automated wind-power generator The Automated Wind Power Generator by Elettronica Veneta represents the typical configuration of a wind-power generator used to directly convert wind kinetic energy into mechanical energy. The equipment includes a horizontal axis wind generator; its tower has a nacelle which contains the driving shaft, the electric generator and

B-700 Series

the auxiliary devices. The nacelle can rotate to keep the machine axis parallel to the wind direction. The system can only start when the wind speed reaches a minimum

NEW

starting threshold (approximately 3 m/s). An inverter and a storage battery enable the evaluation of energy transport and storage devices. A set of power-consuming devices (lamps) are used to simulate the operation of a typical stand-alone wind power system. When connected with a PC, the supervision and remote measure system, available on the control and supervision panel, will monitor the main electrical operational parameters, both in direct current (before the inverter) and in alternate current (after the inverter). Duff & Macintosh Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U232

Waterproof pocket-size meter

End-to-end sequencing for human exome CNV analysis Life Technologies Corporation has announced an end-to-end sequencing solution for exon-level copy number variation (CNV) analysis, which combines the Ion Reporter CNV data analysis workflow, the Ion AmpliSeq Exome Kit and the Ion Proton System. Inherited and de novo CNVs of chromosomal regions, in which large regions (>1 kb of the genome) are duplicated or deleted, are associated with many diseases, including cancer, autism and schizophrenia. Until now, the primary CNV analysis methods - microarrays and fluorescence

pH, conductivity, ions and salt

in situ hybridisation - are said to have had poor dynamic range, limited

Simple accurate and reliable

breakpoint resolution, lower genomic coverage and could only detect

Small samples typically one drop

known single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The Ion AmpliSeq Exome Kit and Ion Reporter Software provide an integrated solution for detecting SNPs, indels and high-resolution copy number variation. The Ion Reporter Software CNV data analysis workflow simplifies and automates all of the steps for a priori identification and

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

interpretation of CNVs, SNPs and indels, so virtually anyone can quickly understand the implications of their exome data with the same sensitivity as microarray data. Simply choose the predefined Ion Reporter Software CNV data analysis workflow, run the sample and receive a list of mutations, including copy number variants ranging in size from exon level up to aneuploidies and associated annotations drawn from dozens of public databases - all in a single day. Life Technologies Australia Pty Ltd

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/V004

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WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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© iStockphoto.com/Oleksiy Mark

Making hydrogenation greener Instead of relying on heavy metals as catalysts, researchers have discovered a way to use iron which will make the process of hydrogenation both more environmentally friendly and less expensive.

R

esearchers from McGill University, Riken and the Institute for Molecular Science have discovered a way to make the widely used chemical process of hydrogenation more environmentally friendly - and less expensive. Hydrogenation is used in a wide range of industrial applications, from food products, such as margarine, to petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. The process typically involves the use of heavy metals, such as palladium or platinum, to catalyse the chemical reaction. While these metals are very efficient catalysts, they are also non-renewable, costly and subject to sharp price fluctuations on international markets. Because these metals are also toxic, even in small quantities, they also raise environmental and safety concerns. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, must use expensive purification methods to limit residual levels of these elements in pharmaceutical products. Iron, by contrast, is both naturally abundant and far less toxic than heavy metals. Previous work by other researchers has shown that iron nanoparticles - tiny pieces of metallic iron - can be used to activate the hydrogenation reaction. Iron, however, has a wellknown drawback: it oxidises in the presence of oxygen or water. When oxidised, iron nanoparticles stop acting as hydrogenation catalysts. This problem, which occurs with so much as trace quantities of water, has prevented iron nanoparticles from being used in industry.

36

In research published in the journal Green Chemistry, scientists report that they have found a way to overcome this limitation, making iron an active catalyst in water-ethanol mixtures containing up to 90% water. The key to this new method is to produce the particles directly inside a polymer matrix, composed of amphiphilic polymers based on polystyrene and polyethylene glycol. The polymer acts as a wrapping film that protects the iron surface from rusting in the presence of water, while allowing the reactants to reach the water and react. This innovation enabled the researchers to use iron nanoparticles as a catalyst in a flow system, raising the possibility that iron could be used to replace platinum-series metals for hydrogenation under industrial conditions. “Our research is now focused on achieving a better understanding of how the polymers are protecting the surface of the iron from water, while at the same time allowing the iron to interact with the substrate,” says Audrey Moores, an assistant professor of chemistry at McGill and co-corresponding author of the paper. Co-author of the paper Prof Yasuhiro Uozumi of Riken and the Institute for Molecular Science says, “The approach we have developed through this collaboration could lead to more sustainable industrial processes. This technique provides a system in which the reaction can happen over and over with the same small amount of a catalytic material, and it enables it to take place in almost pure water - the green solvent par excellence.”

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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Energy-efficient -80°C freezer The SU780 UltraLow Freezer is claimed to slash energy costs by up to 50% or more. Bioline Global has announced that the results of real-life testing in Australian research institutes have shown energy savings of more than 60%. Powered by a Stirling engine, the product is said to operate at a lower cost than cascade compressor freezers. The direct energy consumption is reduced, lowering the load on HAVC facilities with a low heat output and reducing service costs with a seven-year warranty on the engine. The overall efficiency of the freezer is increased by its high storage density capabilities and its low carbon footprint. The product can store approximately 760 5 cm boxes/m2 of floor space. Other features include high- and low-temp alarms; an onboard temperature graph; remote alarm contacts; and a colour touch screen, making the unit suitable for all -80°C storage. Bioline Global Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U818

Global mycotoxin regulations tool Food exporters around the world face the challenge of ensuring that their products meet ever-demanding standards in their target markets. Varying regulations in different countries add to the complexity for exporters eager to comply. New products and innovations are needed to deal with these challenges. Vicam, a Waters Corporation business, has introduced a single-source online tool that provides access to a comprehensive, simple-to-use database of global mycotoxin regulations. The Global Mycotoxin Regulations Tool, available as a web-based or mobile application, allows users to locate global mycotoxin limits by geography and commodity or food type in seconds. The tool provides simple, searchable regulatory data that enables food manufacturers and exporters to quickly assess their product’s suitability for a particular market and establish internal quality programs to meet those requirements. This saves time and resources. Customers can search products using commodity and finished product images, simplifying the search process and ensuring that clear and actionable results are available to stakeholders in food and agriculture markets worldwide. They will be able to meet the varying demands of the global marketplace, while knowing they are minimising the impact of mycotoxins on human and animal health. Waters Australia Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U538

Single-wash ELISA kits Abcam has released a range of SimpleStep ELISA kits, which are single-wash, colorimetric sandwich ELISA assays. The plates are pre-coated with an anti-tag antibody, to which the sample and capture-detector antibodies mixture are added. Following 1 h of incubation, the wells are washed and absorbance read. The kits are said to achieve the same data output of traditional ELISAs but in a simpler, quicker and easier protocol. Sapphire Bioscience Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V223

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WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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Gas chromatography analyser PAC has released the latest edition of its multidimensional gas chromatography analyser for fast group type analysis of gasoline and gasoline blend streams - the AC Reformulyser M4. It is a fast and flexible analyser which combines analysis for paraffins, olefins, naphthenes, oxygenates and aromatics in one instrument. The product provides highly accurate results in 39 min, which is said to reduce typical run time by 50%. Durable olefin traps reduce downtime and maintenance, while the intuitive software includes

Confocal laser scanning microscope

an extensive range of methods and preprogrammed

The Leica TCS SP8 combines high-performance optics, a fast true confocal

modes, improving ease of use.

scanner and a sensitive detection system. Super-resolution and super-sensitivity

With significantly reduced analysis time, refineries are

imaging, single-molecule detection, CARS microscopy, high-content screening,

able to make timely decisions to keep their products

electrophysiology and deep-tissue imaging with more than one multiphoton source

on spec and independent labs can almost double

are all within the scope of the product - and are available as options that can

the number of samples they can process. Improved

be added on as the researcher’s needs change.

trap durability, combined with the improved sample

Leica Microsystems’ scanner options can be configured for resolution, speed

capacity, is said to reduce the total operational cost

or field of view without compromise. Scanning speeds of 428 fps can be reached

per sample by 50%.

with the 12 kHz Tandem Scanner, while the Field of View (FOV) scanner offers a

The product complies with EN ISO 22854, ASTM D6839, ASTM D5443, IP 566 and SH/T 0741. AMS Instrumentation & Calibration Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V071

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large field of view. All scanners are designed to work in harmony with either the Acousto-Optical Beam Splitter (AOBS), for fast and transparent beam splitting, or the Low Incident Angle LIAchroic beam splitters. Leica Microsystems Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V242

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

39


Water test kit The WaterTest Kit is used for the quantitative determination of water content in % of mineral and lubrication oils. The simple addition of two reagents to the contaminated oil causes an increase of pressure in the measuring cell. This pressure increase is read off via the digital display as water content in % or ppm. The measurement range can be selected from 0.02-1%, 0-10% and 100-3000 ppm. The time per measurement is approximately 2 min without sample preparation. The product’s plastic housing is lightweight, impact-proof and chemicalresistant. The pressure sensor is easily cleaned and has highly accurate measurement. There is high resolution in the lower measurement range. HYDAC International Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V114

Automated clinical sample concentrator system Promega has launched the Maxwell CSC instrument and integrated reagent kits for blood DNA and DNA FFPE. The solutions have been developed in compliance with the FDA’s Quality System Regulation and are intended as in vitro diagnostic (IVD) medical devices. Complying with these stringent requirements ensures consistent performance between instruments and runs. The technology extracts nucleic acid using novel paramagnetic particles, allowing optimal capture, wash and elution of the target material. Because there are no tubes or pipette tips involved, there are no clogs, drips, splashing or aerosols, reducing any contamination risk. Depending on which specific CSC kits are used (for blood or FFPE tissues), the instrument can purify DNA from up to 16 samples in under 45 min of processing time, providing high-quality nucleic acids appropriate for downstream analysis in amplification-based assays. The system’s Windows 7-based touch-screen interface provides laboratories with the ability to easily track samples, instrument selfcheck reports, kit lot number and expiration dates, and operator usage, and to document parameters and protocols. Promega Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U428

Ultralow freezers GFL ultralow freezers, fully manufactured in Germany, are available from Capella Science. The range includes features such as: lockable control panel; full stainless-steel interior; powder-coated galvanised steel exterior; explosion-proof design; RS232 interface for logging and remote control via lab management software; remote alarm contacts; 60-hour battery backup; user-adjustable over/undertemperature alarm settings. The freezers are also environmentally friendly, with CFC-free refrigerant and insulation and low noise and heat output. This reduces the load on building-maintenance systems. There are six models in the chest freezer range, from 30 to 500 L. The three upright models include a 500, 300 and 96 L under-bench model. The company also offers a corresponding range of -40°C freezers in the same sizes. Optional extras include: extra shelves; drawers instead of shelves; LN2/CO2 backup systems; chart recorders; complete inventory systems; a water-cooling option (using mains-water supply or chilled water) which is said to facilitate operation in higher ambient temperatures than other freezers. Capella Science Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/U907

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WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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Automated nucleic acid extraction and purification system MagCore HF48 is an automated nucleic acid extraction and purification system with consistent and stable simultaneous processing of up to 48 samples of DNA/ RNA. It provides fast, cost-effective, auto-

Vacuum desiccators

matic extraction and purification of nucleic

The Kartell range of filtration

acids from a diverse range of sample types

and vacuum products includes

including whole blood (200/400 ÂľL), viral

a series of vacuum desiccators.

nucleic acid (DNA/RNA), tissue genomic

The implosion-proof desiccators feature a

DNA, a plant genomic DNA bacteria kit

polypropylene base and a transparent polycarbonate cover to allow for unobstructed monitor-

and total RNA kit.

ing of the contents. They are available in three sizes: 2.15, 4.35 and 9.20 L.

The product offers simple preprogrammed

To use the product, remove the polycarbonate cover and insert samples in the removable

protocols and magnetic bead-based reagent

pan. Spread a small amount of grease on the O-ring to assist initial vacuum, and replace

cartridges for consistent and stable nucleic

the cover. Open the vacuum retention valve (PE needle) and connect the tube of the pump

acid purification. It provides fast (around 30

to the desiccator spigot to create a vacuum. Close the vacuum retention valve. Once the

min), efficient and cross-contamination-free

initial vacuum is created, the desiccator will hold a vacuum of -740 mm/Hg with loss not

isolation of various DNA/RNA samples using

exceeding 20 mm/Hg in 24 h (absolute zero: -760 mm/HG).

robotic pipetting and disposable acces-

The vacuum release tap on the non-return valve assembly includes a specially grooved

sories. With a high processing capacity

stopper. When required, this assembly allows air to be readmitted very slowly to avoid disturb-

and built-in UV sterilisation, the unit offers

ing the contents of the desiccator. Desiccator plates are available as optional extras for use

efficiency and ease of use.

with the vacuum desiccators. The polypropylene plates are useful as a support for crucibles,

Scientex Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/T673

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petri dishes etc, and are designed for use at room temperature. Sieper & Co Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V249

WHATâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

41


Microplate dispenser BioTek’s MultiFlo FX microplate dispenser offers up to four independent reagent dispensers and a washer in one compact and modular platform to simplify and automate microplate-based liquid handling processes, saving time and reducing reagent costs. The product is an efficient solution for 6- to 1536-well plates and

Laboratory meter

incorporates parallel dispense technologies, allowing

Hanna Instruments has released

a choice of peristaltic or syringe pump dispensing.

edge, a laboratory meter with

The choice of dispensing technologies allows reagent

design features not usually as-

conservation and unattended operation down to 500

sociated with instrumentation. The

nL. Additionally, a wash module adds multipurpose

product measures pH, conductivity

functionality and uses the company’s dual-action

and dissolved oxygen.

manifold for independent aspirate/dispense control.

It is very thin and lightweight, measuring 12.7 mm (half an inch) thick and weigh-

The device has a small footprint for use in a bi-

ing just 250 g. This versatility allows it to be used as a benchtop meter, a portable

osafety enclosure or in an automated robotic system.

meter, or even attached to a wall to free-up bench space in a laboratory. The product

To automate sensitive cell-based assays, the product

also features a large 5.5″ LCD with a wide viewing angle, capacitive touch keypad,

can also be integrated with the BioStack4 to handle

dual USB ports, cradle with swivel arm electrode holder and an included wall mount.

lidded plates.

The device works with the company’s digital smart electrodes. They feature a

The fully configured dispenser replaces up to five

built-in microchip that stores sensor type, ID and calibration information that is au-

liquid handlers, and the modular architecture means

tomatically retrieved by the product once the electrode is plugged in. Simply plug

users need only purchase the modules required now,

in the sensor required and begin measuring; change the measurement parameter

and can upgrade at any time as their assay needs

by changing the sensor. The electrodes have a 3.5 mm connector so users don’t

evolve. The product is suitable for cell-based assays,

have to worry about alignment and pins bending or breaking.

bead-based assays, ELISAs, primary and secondary

The meter can be purchased as a complete kit, with user’s choice of sensor.

screening, compound storage and more.

Hanna Instruments Pty Ltd

Millennium Science Pty Ltd

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V347

Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V088

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© iStockphoto.com/renzzo

Beaming up information with quantum teleportation University of Queensland (UQ) physicists have successfully ‘teleported’ an atom, transmitting it from one location to another inside an electronic chip. This marks the first time quantum teleportation has been achieved in a solid-state system.

T

he team includes Dr Arkady Fedorov and Dr Matthias Baur, who recently moved to UQ’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems from ETH Zurich, where the research was conducted. Other members from ETH Zurich include L Steffen, Y Salathe, M Oppliger, P Kurpiers, M Baur, C Lang, G Puebla-Hellmann and Andreas Wallraff. Dr Fedorov described quantum teleportation as “a process by which quantum information can be transmitted from one place to another without sending a physical carrier of information”. In this case, it was used to relay information from one corner of an integrated electronic circuit to the other in a way that is impossible in a classical world. “In this process the information just appears at the destination,” said Dr Fedorov, “almost like teleportation used in the famous science fiction series Star Trek.” Dr Fedorov said the team’s macroscopic quantum system uses a circuit “much like modern computer chips”. The quantum information is stored in quantum bits (qubits) - artificial structures which can be seen with the naked eye. In order to teleport the information one needs three qubits in total, with two being prepared in an entangled state. Entanglement is a special type of correlation shared between a sender and a receiver, said Dr Fedorov, and once it is created, “this ‘impossible’ information transfer becomes in fact possible thanks to laws of quantum mechanics”.

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Dr Fedorov said the qubits allowed the researchers “to do teleportation with impressive speed and accuracy above the classical threshold”. While in other experiments teleportation occurs every few seconds, “our system allows us to teleport a quantum state more than 10,000 times per second”. The breakthrough was enabled through a measurement scheme that distinguishes between all four entangled Bell states in a singleshot measurement. The team’s device uses a crossed quantum bus technology that improves scalability in these systems and will lead to larger and more complex systems in the future. Dr Fedorov said the technology is being used in UQ’s Superconducting Quantum Devices Laboratory “to further enhance our knowledge of quantum information processing”. Eventually it will be used to create more powerful devices, he said, such as larger electronic networks and more functional electronic chips. This research indicates that questions relating to the physics of quantum communication can be addressed using electronic circuits at microwave frequencies. In future experiments, quantum entanglement may even be distributed over larger distances directly by microwave photons or using microwave to optical interfaces for quantum communication. Teleportation is expected to find applications in secure communication and in more efficient information processing based on the laws of quantum physics. The research has been published in the journal Nature.

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

43


4-port anaerobic workstation Don Whitley Scientific has launched a 4-port anaerobic workstation that has two airlocks, one at either end of the chamber. The workstation has been designed for busy laboratories where two people may need to use the workstation simultaneously. The positioning of the two airlocks at either end of the chamber allows samples to be introduced at one end and removed at the other, improving laboratory workflow. The A55 incorporates features such as a colour touch-screen interface, sleeveless instant access ports, automatic commissioning and a range of options and accessories to tailor the workstation to the user’s requirements. A removable front is fitted on the right-hand side of the cabinet to facilitate the introduction of bulk samples and equipment that may need to be used inside the chamber. The product can accommodate up to 1400 x 90 mm Petri dishes. Options for the workstation include a fully integrated anaerobic conditions monitor, internal power sockets, single-plate entry system and a fully comprehensive maintenance contract. Don Whitley Scientific Pty Limited Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V185

Ultracompact refrigeration circulator Huber Ministats are small cooling circulators which have enough power to thermoregulate photometers, refractometers, viscosimeters, distillation apparatus, reactor vessels and mini plants. Their compact form allows them to be placed in areas where space is at a premium. They can be used to control external applications or objects that can be thermoregulated directly in the bath. The range consists of three models which are available as air- or water-cooled versions. Depending on the model, working temperatures from -45 to +200°C and cooling capacities of 600 W can be achieved. The maximum admissible environmental temperature for continual operation is +40°C. A powerful variable speed pressure/suction pump allows optimum circulation and can be controlled using an optional pressure sensor which protects delicate glassware. All models have Active Cooling Control for cooling power control at the maximum working temperature and an automatic cooling power regulation for energy-saving operation and reduced heat dissipation into the lab. Parts in contact with the thermal fluid are made of stainless steel or polycarbonate, guaranteeing long service life. The product is fitted with the Pilot ONE touch-screen controller, which provides comfortable navigation and advanced control technology. Operation is via a colour 5.7″ TFT touch-screen display with convenient menu prompts and full text menu guidance in 11 languages. Important parameters such as process temperature, jacket temperature, pump pressure and safety equipment are visible at a glance - the temperature processes are graphically displayed and shown in real time. Ease of use is facilitated with USB/LAN connections, which also benefits data recording or remote control. For example, temperature measurement data can be easily stored on a USB stick. The USB connection also allows a connection to a PC or notebook. Combined with the Huber Spy Software, requirements such as remote control or data transmission can be performed easily. Scitek Australia Pty Ltd Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V151

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WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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With the extended mass range (EMR) option for the

Laboratory temperature controller

Thermo Scientific Exactive Plus LC-MS, proteomics

Oven Industriesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 5R6-900 laboratory

scientists have a tool for challenging high-resolution

temperature controller features ramp/soak

accurate mass (HRAM) intact protein analysis

capabilities and several user-friendly ben-

such as investigating the structure, topology and

efits. Contained all in one enclosure, the

architecture of targets. These include impurities in

device can be plugged into the wall as a self-contained temperature control system which

monoclonal antibodies, antibody-drug conjugates,

has its own power supply. The temperature controller can be used universally, which allows

PEGylated proteins, oligomerised protein-based

the device to be used wherever the user is located. As a solid state MOSFET bidirectional

drugs, glycoforms and protein assemblies.

compact unit featuring an internal power supply, it is also capable of loading currents up

LC-MS with EMR option

The EMR option includes an extended m/z range

to 10 A. User friendly and PC programmable, the electronic controller easily connects to

of 350-20,000; improved transmission of higher-mass

a computer through the electrically isolated RS232 communications port. The computer

ions for stronger signals; modified HCD pressure

can be used as a connector and the unit can stand alone once the desired parameter

and controls for easier optimisation of experimen-

settings are in place. These settings are kept in the non-volatile memory.

tal conditions; and access to long transients for improved signal-to-noise ratio.

The product is suitable for universities, science laboratories, PCR research and any businesses that specialises in temperature control. The controller features an easy-to-read

The product allows scientists to characterise native

digital display for controlling functions, including adjusting output voltage and setting the

protein complexes with high sensitivity and mass

desired temperature. Complete with an auto output shutdown if the sensor is opened or

resolving power. It will be a suitable tool for deci-

shorted, the unit also includes high, low and no alarm settings. Oven Industries has many

phering molecular mechanisms of protein machine

options for customised, industrial-quality temperature controllers and sensors. All products

assembling and protein complex/drug interactions.

are designed by experts and have been used in a wide variety of applications, including

Thermo Fisher Scientific Contact info and more items like this at wf.net.au/V138

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commercial, industrial, military, medical equipment and food processing. Oven Industries http://www.ovenind.com

WHATâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

45


my lab 46

Scorpions and spectrometers to improve cancer surgery By Lauren Davis Scorpions could hold the secret to better cancer treatment, according to researchers from the Queensland Tropical Health Alliance (QTHA). The alliance recently acquired a $1.2 million nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer and facility to investigate the structure of promising molecules, some of which are found in scorpion venom. Professor Norelle Daly’s research into scorpion venom began as a collaboration with Professor David Craik at the University of Queensland (UQ) and Dr Jim Olson at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. She explained, “The scorpion toxin, chlorotoxin, has been shown to bind to tumour cells. Therefore, labelling the toxin with a dye allows the tumour cells to be visualised.” Such visualisation would help to more clearly distinguish the margin between cancerous and healthy cells during surgery, Professor Daly said. She hopes to find features in the scorpion toxin which “might one day help surgeons more accurately target cancers, including brain tumours”. After applying for an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship to join the QTHA at James Cook University (JCU), she learned that JCU’s Professor Alex Loukas and Dr Jason Mulvenna, who had recently established laboratories with high-end mass spectrometry equipment, were also keen to establish an NMR facility. “As my research requires an NMR, we put in an application for a LIEF grant from the Australian Research Council to partially fund an NMR spectrometer,” Professor Daly said. The researchers were awarded $630,000 to support the high-resolution, high-throughput NMR facility, while the rest of the money was put in by JCU. Dr David Wilson was also funded by JCU to manage the facility. Dr Wilson explained that NMR occurs when the nuclei of certain atoms, placed in magnetic fields, absorb and re-emit electromagnetic radiation. “Some nuclei experience this phenomenon and others do not,” he said, “so we can measure this to try and understand the structure of these molecules, including those in scorpion venom.” The facility’s NMR spectrometers, featuring cryogenically cooled probes, are also being used to study the structures of small proteins and small molecules isolated from creatures such as spiders, cone snails, jellyfish and hookworms, as “the structural information gained from these studies might be useful in the drug design process”, Professor Daly said. She further noted that NMR spectroscopy is “highly suited to studying the [3D] structures of small proteins that are often present in venomous creatures”, as it is one of only two techniques which can reveal a high level of structural detail (the second being X-ray crystallography). Meanwhile, outside the facility the original collaboration continues. Professor Daly and her research colleagues are doing some of the characterisation studies together, while Dr Olson is exploring whether tumour imaging can be used to help surgeons more effectively remove tumours.

WHAT’S NEW IN LAB & LIFE SCIENCES - October/November 2013

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What’s New in LAB & Life Sciences Oct/Nov 2013