This story originally ran on April 26.
Life Technologies this week launched a proteomic and epigenetics benchtop sample preparation system that it says will improve reproducibility and save protocol time.
The system, called the Magic Sample Processor, was developed by Life Tech's Invitrogen business and costs $18,000.
In an interview with ProteoMonitor, Nick Ecos, general manager of bead-based separations for Life Tech's Cell Systems Division, said that the three main "pain points" that he and his team tried to address in developing the system were protocol time, reproducibility, and ease-of-use.
On the first issue, Ecos said that for some researchers a lot of time is spent just pipetting "and they have a lot better things to do with their time." The Magic Sample Process, he said, could save researchers anywhere from a few hours, for a standard immunoprecipitation run, to days in the case of chromatin immunoprecipitation.
Indeed, chromatin immunoprecipitation is a complicated process rife with chances for error. The new system allows for enzymatic treatment, however, so "you can do a complete chromatin immunoprecipitation from the step where you have cross-linked your DNA to end up with your DNA sample," said Erlend Ragnhildstveit, head of R&D, bead-based separations for the Cell Systems Division.
For other researchers, the major bottleneck in the sample prep process is variability in results. "We've come up with something that presents less opportunity for samples to degrade, which is especially important for complex proteins," Ecos said. "In some cases, you can do a manual process all day and you still may not get to the right answer because of the fragile nature of these samples."
By automating the process, a researcher can have cleaner samples with less background, he said.
The system is able to handle 12 samples simultaneously, "and the machine will treat the samples identically, so you get very consistent samples," Ragnhildstveit added.
Also, for some researchers, protein purification is a far from simple step, entailing multiple setup steps and possibly outsourcing the work to a core facility. The Magic Sample Processor, Ecos said, is designed so that even a non-expert can begin using the instrument almost immediately.
"This is set up to be a benchtop device and with the user interface, it's kept very, very clean and simple," said James Gilmore, head of the research business segment, bead-based separations for the Cell Systems Division. "The concept is that you should be able to have this up and running out of the box within 30 minutes."
For the more experienced researcher, the main draw of the system is the improvement in reproducible experiments, leading to better data, he said, while scientists newer to the protein purification process will appreciate the simplicity of use.
The system's capabilities result from five components that individually don't amount to much, but in combination represent a breakthrough in the technology, according to the company. The first is the use of novel microfluidics. According to Ecos, the microfluidics used in the new platform "are not based on single pumps but rather a manifold device, which allows equal pressure to be delivered to all channels. Other devices might tend to use an individual pump for each channel."
Second, a temperature control feature allows researchers to select particular temperatures for specific samples.
The system also has integrated magnetic separation technology, which allows researchers to "easily automate their protein purification and epigenetic methods without relying on centralized facilities," the company said. Meanwhile, a consumables package with the pipetting comb and cartridge buffers already provided allows "the user just has to load the sample and analyte," Ecos said.
And lastly, a simple user interface gives researchers the freedom to choose conditions such as binding times, binding temperatures, and elution conditions, "and then you load a couple of tubes, your sample, and the antibody and you press 'Go,'" Ecos said.
While other automated sample prep systems are available, they don't encompass the same capabilities as the Magic Sample Processor, company officials said.
According to Gilmore, other automatic systems run "a low number of samples" or they focus either on nucleic acids or recombinant proteins. In contrast, in addition to being able to run 12 samples at once with the use of a proprietary cartridge, the Magic Sample Processor has applications beyond protein isolation and epigenetics, and is flexible enough to be used for a "variety" of proteomic and genomic applications, according to Life Tech.
The system is designed for the basic research market, however, Gilmore added, so for proteomics, the main use would be for biomarker discovery.
Life Tech is also coming out with the first recombinant protein isolation tags and will introduce them throughout the year, Gilmore said. "Many different researchers use many different tags, so we'll [want] to fulfill their needs."