Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail
“The number one roadblock to successfully screening tissues is the availability of high-quality samples, which haven’t experienced degradation or changes to the RNA and protein expression. While degradation is an issue, the main problem is an active change of RNA and protein profiles of cells caused by the surgical techniques used to remove the tissue, the drugs the patient is on, and most importantly how the tissue is prepared post-surgery,” stated Professor Hartmut Juhl, founder and CEO of Indivumed, a German firm that specializes in isolating and banking biological samples from patients suffering from bowel, lung, breast, and colorectal cancers.
Professor Juhl presented evidence to substantiate this claim, by showing how significantly the protein profiles of two different proteins isolated from 40 different cancer samples changed pre- and post-surgery. To overcome this problem, Professor Juhl explained that his company has designated nurses on surgical teams in eight cancer centers in Germany. These nurses prepare for surgery along with the surgical team, receiving information about a patient’s treatment and condition. When the tissue is removed, it is taken into a room next to the surgical suite, where it is sectioned into pieces that are then fixed and frozen within 5–10 minutes of being removed. Professor Juhl concluded: “We have 300 clinical data points on each tissue we collect and we now have over 15,000 patient samples. This is expensive and time consuming to do but we believe our process does provide tissues that are of high value in preclinical screening.”
Another new product featured at ELA was Cellectricon’s Cellaxess® Elektra Discovery Platform, for automated cellular electric field manipulation. Johan Pihl, Ph.D., product manager at Cellectricon, said, “The platform is highly versatile and can be used to transfect siRNA and cDNA into primary cell cultures in genomic screening applications. The system can also deliver small molecules and antibodies, and we believe it will enable scientists working with primary adherent cell types such as diffentiated neurons and cardiomyocytes in lead identification and target validation. The platform lets users perform in situ manipulation and monitoring of cell cultures directly in 96- and 384-well HCS compatible microplates without affecting viability and cellular morphology, enabling the manipulation and study of more biologically relevant cell systems such as primary and stem-cell derived cultures.
According to Dr. Pihl, Cellectricon is also offering access to the platform through its discovery assay development and discovery screening services. “The hybrid business model allows researchers in pharma/biotech and academia to acquire the Cellaxess Elektra platform for certain applications or to outsource to us for discovery screening services employing electric field manipulation of cells in CNS and cardiovascular applications,” he explained.
Cellaxess Elektra can also be configured with an integrated imaging-based microplate reader for recording of transient fluorescence and luminescence signals from living cells in real-time to provide data in CNS/pain and cardiovascular research applications. Cellectricon supplies a plate reader, but readers from other manufacturers could be integrated, and there were several available at ELA. One example was the HTS multi-mode microplate PHERAstar FS, which was exhibited by BMG LABTECH.
“Using the PHERAstar FS, cell-based microplate assays are now possible that were not possible before,” said Silke Angersbach, Ph.D., the firm’s regional manager. “When measuring cell-based assays on a microplate reader, it is necessary to measure from the plate bottom. Most instruments use flexible, inefficient fiber optics to measure from the microplate bottom. The PHERAstar FS, however, uses a Direct Optic Bottom Reading approach analogous to a microscope. Since fiber optics are not used, the overall signal is significantly higher (up to 10-fold) compared to instruments that use fiber optics.”