colony picking robots
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Published On: December 5th, 2023Categories: Articles, Colony Picking, Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology, also known as syn-bio, has emerged as a groundbreaking field that combines biology, engineering, and computer science to create and improve organisms for various applications. The ability to engineer microorganisms with enhanced productivity has paved the way for accelerated bioproduction, leading to advancements in biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and specialty chemicals. However, selecting and isolating desired colonies from a cluster of different colonies on agar plates has traditionally been a time-consuming and labor-intensive task. The advent of automated robots has revolutionized the field, enabling scientists to streamline the process and increase throughput. Read on to learn more about the principles, protocols, and advantages of colony-picking robots in synthetic biology research and genetic engineering.

What Is Colony Picking?

Colony picking is a critical step in microbiology laboratories that involves selecting one unique colony (grown from a single cell) from a culture plate to duplicate it for future use. It plays a crucial role in identifying and characterizing microorganisms, particularly bacteria. Traditionally, this process has relied on manual techniques, such as using sterile pipette tips, toothpicks, or inoculation loops to pick individual colonies. However, manual colony picking is prone to human error, is time-consuming, and becomes increasingly challenging with many samples. Automated robots offer a solution to overcome these challenges and streamline the process.

The Protocol of Colony Picking

The protocol of colony picking involves several steps to ensure the isolation of pure colonies for further analysis:

  1. The desired microorganisms are cultured on an agar plate.
  2. Once the colonies have grown, the selected isolated colonies are picked using specialized instruments like inoculating loops, needles, or toothpicks.
  3. These selected colonies are inoculated into new agar plates, liquid broth, or biochemical media to obtain pure cultures.
  4. Finally, the newly inoculated plates are incubated under growth conditions, and the colonies can be stored or subjected to further tests as per the requirements of the research.

The Principle of Automated Colony Pickers

Automated colony-picking robots operate based on advanced imaging analysis software and robotics that pick selected colonies from agar plates. The software includes image recognition capabilities, where the robot captures a camera image of the source agar plate and the software interprets the image into picking coordinates that the robot uses to pick the selected colonies. The picked colonies are transferred onto growth media plates or petri dishes, depending on the application. This automation principle in colony-picking tasks allows for increased precision, reduced human error, and improved throughput.

Advantages of Switching to an Automated Colony Picker

Automated colony picking offers numerous advantages over traditional manual colony picking methods. While manual picking requires precise knowledge of colony characteristics, automated colony pickers provide optimum precision and reduce the chance of human-made errors. The automation process also reduces the labor-intensive nature of colony-picking tasks (particularly in tracking the colonies from picked location to inoculation position) allowing laboratory personnel to focus on other essential work. Additionally, automated colony pickers can significantly decrease the number of required laboratory workers, as a single person can operate the machine and perform other tasks simultaneously. The software-controlled automation provides consistent and objective colony picking, ensuring reproducibility and accuracy in experimental results.

Applications of Colony-Picking Robots

The applications of colony-picking robots extend beyond syn-bio research and genetic engineering. These automated systems have found utility in various fields, including:

  • Clinical microbiology
  • Pharmaceutical research
  • Biotechnology

In clinical microbiology, colony pickers aid in identifying and isolating pathogenic bacteria, enabling faster and more accurate diagnosis. In pharmaceutical research, automated colony picking allows for high-throughput screening of microbial libraries, accelerating the discovery of novel therapeutics. Biotechnology companies utilize colony pickers for the isolation and characterization of genetically modified organisms, facilitating the development of biofuels, enzymes, and other bioproducts. The versatility of these robots makes them a valuable tool across multiple scientific disciplines.

Future Directions in Syn-bio

As the synthetic biology field continues to advance, colony-picking robots are likely to play an even more significant role in research and development. Future innovations may tackle challenges in colony picking and may include improvements in image recognition software, enabling more precise colony selection and characterization. Integration with other laboratory automation systems, such as liquid handling robots and high-throughput screening platforms, could further enhance the efficiency and speed of syn-bio workflows. However, challenges remain, including the high cost of automated colony pickers and the need for specialized training to operate and maintain these systems.

Automated colony-picking robots have revolutionized the field of syn-bio research and genetic engineering. These advanced systems offer numerous advantages over traditional manual colony-picking methods, including increased precision, reduced human error, and improved throughput. By streamlining the colony-picking process, scientists can accelerate bioproduction, facilitate the discovery of novel therapeutics, and advance the field of synthetic biology. As technology continues to evolve, colony-picking robots will play a crucial role in shaping the future of scientific research and innovation. Embracing these technological advancements is essential for laboratories and researchers seeking to stay at the forefront of synthetic biology and genetic engineering.

To learn more about colony-picking robots can enhance your syn-biol laboratory, contact the professionals today at Hudson Robotics to speak with a professional and receive a quote.