Single Cell Colony Picking Tools
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Published On: July 26th, 2022Categories: Articles, Colony Picking

Colony picking involves removing a sample from a healthy microbe colony after culturing a microbe sample on a plate. Single-cell colony picking means isolating a single microbe cell from a cultured colony. The growing fields of genomics, proteomics, and transcriptomics rely on isolating and studying single cells. Learn more about the tools and methods behind this lab technique, its current applications and challenges, and how automation is changing the game.

Applications of Single Cell Colony Picking

Why would scientists need to study just a single cell instead of a sample of many cells from the same microbe colony? In general, single-cell colony picking is useful for applications where the colony’s behavior is not uniform. For example, tumors include complex interactions between malignant, cancerous cells, and benign near the malignant cells. Studying these two different cell types can help biologists better understand how cancer spreads. Think about it like this: analyzing a colony of cells is like studying a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Analyzing single cells is like studying the ingredients that work together to make the cookie: the flour, the sugar, and the chocolate chips.

Another application of single cell colony picking is in studying stem cell development. Stem cells can develop into other types of specialized cells. Stem cells are also self-renewing, which means they have great potential for medical treatments like accelerated wound healing. Understanding how stem cells differentiate into specialized cells could help scientists make important advancements in treating disease.
Finally, single-cell colony picking is useful in synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is the design of new biological parts and systems and often involves genetic engineering to introduce small changes into existing bacteria and yeasts. Studying single cells helps microbiologists determine the results of synthetic biology procedures.

Single Cell Colony Picking Tools

There are many micromanipulation techniques used for isolating single cells from living samples. Often, the technique depends on the sample type. For tissue samples, laser capture microdissection or LCM is used to separate cells from tissue.

Fluorescence-activated cell sorting or FACS is a flow cytometry used to isolate cells from liquid samples. However, FACS requires a very high cell volume. Over 10,000 cells are necessary just to isolate one cell. Manual cell picking is the standard technique for isolating cells from plated colonies.
Manual cell picking uses two tools: a microscope and micropipettes. First, microbiologists look through the microscope to identify a single cell from the colony that is targeted for picking. Then, cells are gently lifted from the colony one at a time with the micropipettes. While this technique is effective, it can be very time-consuming, requiring highly trained lab technicians.

Automated colony picking tools can speed up this process, making it easier to select cells for further research. Increasing the throughput of lab techniques like single-cell colony picking means scientists and lab techs can focus on research questions and outcomes. An automated colony picker is a key part of a complete synthetic biology workstation.

Other FAQs:

What are the primary challenges associated with automating single-cell colony picking, particularly in terms of maintaining accuracy and precision when isolating individual cells from heterogeneous colonies?

The challenges of automating single-cell colony picking revolve around ensuring the accuracy and precision required to isolate individual cells from diverse colonies. Maintaining consistency in cell selection across various colony types and sizes poses a significant obstacle, requiring advancements in image recognition and robotic manipulation technologies.

How do the current tools and techniques for single-cell colony picking address the heterogeneity within microbial colonies, especially concerning the identification and isolation of rare or unique cell types?

Current tools and techniques for single-cell colony picking primarily rely on manual selection under a microscope or automated processes. While manual picking allows for precise identification of target cells, it can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Automation offers increased throughput but may struggle with identifying rare or unique cell types within heterogeneous colonies, highlighting the need for improved technology in this area.

What advancements are needed in single-cell colony picking technology to enhance its applicability in emerging fields such as personalized medicine and precision agriculture, where the study of individual cells is crucial for understanding complex biological systems and optimizing treatments?

Advancements in single-cell colony picking technology are essential for expanding its applicability in fields like personalized medicine and precision agriculture. Improvements in automation, image analysis, and microfluidics could streamline the process, allowing for high-throughput analysis of individual cells and facilitating more precise diagnostics and treatments tailored to individual needs.

For more information about single-cell colony picking tools and challenges, contact Hudson Robotics today.