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Image of petri dish with bacteria for article on colony picking.
Published On: June 21st, 2022

Industrial Synthetic Biology: Synthetic Biology and Industrial Biotechnology

Have you ever wondered how epidemiologists identify which bacteria are causing the latest food poisoning outbreak? When biologists need to identify or research a specific cellular organism, they grow that organism in the lab. Cell culturing is a technique for growing cells under aseptic conditions on a medium like an agar plate that can feed the cells as they grow.

Colony picking in cell culture is the process of choosing a single strain of microbes from an agar plate that has been used to culture cells. A cell colony is a large group of one cell species growing together. The visual characteristics of cell colonies can help distinguish between different cell species. That might help scientists distinguish between healthy bacteria and a pathogen that causes food-borne illness.

Colony picking in cell culture is helpful in identifying cells, developing new cell lines with synthetic biology, and testing new pharmaceutical drugs. Read on to discover the process microbiologists use to choose colonies, the nanotechnology behind single-cell colony picking, and the tools available to automate this scientific process.

Cell Culture Colony Picking Procedure

The first step in the procedure of colony picking is cell culture. First, cells are grown in a microplate in an aseptic environment with the proper environmental conditions for that particular cell type. This could require temperature control at 37 deg. C or other temperatures and CO2 for pH control.  Next, cell colonies are screened. Typically, biologists use a microscope to analyze the colony’s shape, size, and color. These characteristics give clues about a colony’s type and health. Once a colony has been selected, a research scientist will use a pin or pipette to remove some bacterial cells from the chosen colony. The picked colony samples are then transferred to a microtiter plate with inoculation media in each well. Finally, the re-plated cells are incubated in the microtiter plate for their future use.

Single Cell Colony Picking

Cell culture colony picking sometimes needs to be precise enough to select just one cell. Single cell colony picking has oncology, forensics, and prenatal testing applications. The degree of precision required is nearly impossible for human scientists to achieve without the help of specialized single-cell colony picking tools.

Colony Picking Equipment

Colony picking in cell culture can be done manually, but when there is a large volume of colonies to process, automated lab tools can help. Automated cell culture colony picking tools use a camera and image analysis software for automatically choosing colonies. Robotic arms equipped with pipettes or pins can use precise coordinates in 3 axes to pick from the exact locations chosen. High-throughput colony picking has grown as synthetic biology requires high volumes of colonies to test cells that have been modified to produce materials grown from the cells.

Hudson Robotics offers a range of colony picking equipment for laboratory use. Smaller labs can find benchtop colony picking solutions that can grow as your lab expands. Higher throughput labs might choose a fully automated colony picker that has a capacity of 72 deep-well culture growth plates and a processing speed of over 2,400 colonies picked per hour.

Interested in learning more? Contact Hudson Robotics for a free quote or information to help you choose the right equipment.