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New study shows how robotics can make stem cells reproducibly

03 October 2018
Using robotics to grow high quality stem cells facilitates research
Collaborative research from multiple Australian universities and research centres including the University of Melbourne, Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), University of Queensland, Garvan Institute, University of Tasmania, CSIRO and Monash University has shown that laboratory robots can be used to grow a high number of pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), allowing researchers to do large-scale comparisons of different stem cell conditions and types.  

Scientists analysed the expression of key genes to check variability and found that very similar expression patterns were observed regardless of what type of media, that is the food the cells were fed.

This research was co-led by University of Melbourne and CERA PhD student Maciej Daniszewski and University of Queensland senior research officer Dr Quan Nguyen.

In 2007 scientists discovered that mature skin cells (fibroblasts) could be reprogrammed into iPSCs, and subsequently differentiated into any cell type present in the body. iPSCs have transformed stem cell science by allowing researchers to study diseases in a dish, as well as identifying new drug candidates and testing drug toxicity. 

The advantage of using robots over traditional manual maintenance of cells by a researcher is that it allows standardisation of all techniques performed and eliminates the risk of human error. This helps to limit the variation between samples. It also allows a larger number of samples to be grown under the same condition and frees-up researchers to conduct other more technically demanding experiments , thereby facilitating progress.

The scientists used a technique known as single-cell RNA sequencing, to examine the pattern of pluripotent genes being express, and to determine the degree of similarity between different experimental groups of iPSCs.

This research was the result of collaboration between Stem Cells Australia members. The Pébay lab at the University of Melbourne and Hewitt lab at the University of Tasmania, reprogrammed patient fibroblasts into iPSCs. These were subsequently analysed in collaboration with the Laslett lab at CSIRO and Monash University, to see which pluripotent genes were expressed. The Powell lab at the Garvan Institute completed the single cell RNA sequencing analysis. 

Congratulations all.

For more information:
Read the journal article.