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Image of microbes and test tubes for article on serial dilution.
Published On: January 11th, 2022

You are probably familiar with some microbes like bacteria and viruses, but the category includes protists and fungi. Scientists incubate these microbes in the lab, keeping them alive so their characteristics can be studied.But what is microbiology? Microbiology is the study of living organisms that are too small to see with the naked eye. These tiny organisms are called microbes.

Serial dilutions are a lab technique that microbiologists use to determine the concentration of cells in a cell sample. Synthetic biology tools allow scientists to save time by automating lab techniques like serial dilution. Keep reading to learn about incubation, serial dilutions, and how these lab techniques help scientists understand the microscopic life surrounding.

Read on to learn about serial dilutions in microbiology 101. Then, get ready to become an expert in serial dilutions in microbiology 101!

What Does “Incubate” Mean in Microbiology?

Before covering serial dilutions in microbiology 101, it’s important to understand incubation. To incubate means to create an environment in which a living organism can grow. In microbiology, incubation is the process of allowing microbes to grow by controlling temperature, humidity, pH and oxygen levels. Before plating and incubating a cell sample, scientists need to know the cell concentration of that sample.

The concentration of the cells being plated can help scientists determine the reproduction rate of the organism being studied. The reproduction rate is one of the many clues microbiologists use to identify microbe species.

Serial Dilutions in Microbiology 101

Microbes reproduce rapidly. Some species of bacteria can double their population in 4 – 20 minutes! The rapid growth rate means that it is necessary to dilute the cell culture solution to count the cells. Cell counting is a time-consuming process, so scientists dilute the solution so there are fewer cells and use math to determine the original cell concentration.

Now that you know why dilution is necessary let’s get back to serial dilutions in microbiology 101. You might be wondering how a serial dilution is defined. Serial dilution refers to performing more than one dilution in succession, in order to determine which of many concentrations is correct for further study. Typically serial dilutions are made across all or half of the columns of a 96 well microplate. The initial term “microtiter” plate is based on doing a titer, or dilution across the plate. Because cell culture samples are so high in cell concentration, you might have to pipette extremely small quantities of the sample to get the dilution you are seeking if you only do a single dilution – a serial dilution of many decreasing concentrations addresses this issue.

Once the cell culture sample has been diluted, microbiologists can count the cells in the diluted sample to calculate the concentration of cells in the diluted sample, or perform other analysis with the proper concentration. Finally, the diluted sample cell concentration is used to determine the original concentration of the sample. When the original concentration of the cell sample is known, the cells can be plated and incubated for further study.

How to Improve Serial Dilutions in Your Lab

It’s easy to make a measurement or mathematical errors when performing serial dilutions. To reduce the likelihood of dilution errors and increase the efficiency of your microbiology lab, consider synthetic biology automation tools. For more information about synthetic biology tools, contact Hudson Robotics to learn how you can use automation in your workplace. Now that you understand serial dilution in microbiology 101, you can apply this knowledge to increase the throughput in your lab.

For more information about Hudson Robotics or to receive a quote on our serial dilution products, contact us today.