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Selected issue: 1/2021

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Lessons of the pandemic: 3 ways to secure lab operations

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to look at laboratory routines to see if they are really pandemic proof. For example, the explosive demand for high throughput genomic analysis often creates upstream pressures to process many more samples and prepare high quality DNA. The rapid shutdown of non-essential workplaces and services, coupled with the surge in demand for laboratory testing, put immense strain on multiple aspects of normal laboratory operations, such as strict rules on the need for personal protective equipment – which was in limited supply – and required physical distancing. Consumables stocks and reagents also dwindled, as they were being used at a much faster rate and supply chains were affected by global demand. Now that the limitations of current laboratory routines have been highlighted, it’s time to consider how to make laboratories pandemic proof.

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Precision medicine for cancer treatment

Precision medicine is potentially revolutionizing diagnostics and treatment by targeting mutations that are specific to individual patients with various diseases, including cancer. The Institute of Pathology and Neuropathology at the Essen University Hospital, Germany, is following this ethos, relying on NGS to look for biomarkers associated with a number of key malignancies.

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Delivering end-to-end traceability

Laboratories working in the field of in vitro diagnostics (IVD) must comply with increasing accreditation requirements that may vary from country to country. For US-based Inova Diagnostics, the challenge was to provide a family of automated platforms that make it easy for labs to conform with accreditation requirements for autoimmune testing.

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A smooth operator for continuous flow

Precise liquid handling is critical to both research and routine analysis in a laboratory environment, requiring accurate transfer of samples, reagents and buffers from one container to another to ensure consistent results. For applicationssuch as chromatography and spectrometry, it is just as important to be able to achieve a reliable continuous flow of fluids over a prolonged period. DURATEC has been supplying modules, accessories and consumables to analytical laboratory, life sciences research and process engineering markets for over 25 years, and offers a number of precision pumping and dispensing devices for integration into laboratory set-ups for various applications.

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Exploring the mouse microbiome

Interest and research into the human microbiome have boomed in recent years, and it is now known that the bacteria that colonize the gut of animals and humans play vital functions in health and disease. Despite this, scientists have only just begun to skim the surface of microbiome knowledge, and there is still so much to learn. Researchers in the Adams Lab at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine are focused on the creation of different assays and analyses to help study the microbiome.

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Algae – a novel solution to the climate crisis?

It has been estimated that, by 2050, the world will need to produce 70% more food than in 2005, and will need 50% more fresh water and fuel, while reducing CO2 emissions by 100%. These are massive global challenges that are not going to be solved by current technologies, which is why international teams at the Centre for Solar Biotechnology, based at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at The University of Queensland, Australia, are working with a wide range of industry partners to advance novel algae-based solutions to tackle these issues.

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Salivary hormone testing – the blood of the 21st century?

Blood testing is ideal for a wide range of analytes, but it has limitations for hormone analysis. In Canada, FLUIDS iQ has turned to saliva as an alternative test matrix, which is proving an excellent choice for measuring the bioavailability of a range of hormones in the wellness arena.

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Digital connectivity for Lab 4.0

In a post-pandemic world, the need for real-time and remote connectivity is more crucial than ever. Today’s laboratory equipment and analyzers are capable of generating more data than ever before, creating new challenges for data processing and analysis. Recognizing this challenge back in 2013, Labforward began developing software solutions capable of interfacing directly with a diverse range of laboratory instruments.

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Digesting food intolerance testing

Food intolerances can have a major impact on the working and social life of an individual, affecting up to 45 % of the population. Unlike allergies, where a symptom appears as soon as a certain food is eaten, intolerances – chemical reactions that occur after consuming particular foods and drinks – generally develop at a slower rate. In Italy, the Bianalisi laboratory is using food intolerance testing alongside food plans and personalized diets to help chronic sufferers take control of their symptoms.

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An alternative approach to prenatal testing

Genetic screening is used during pregnancy to look for hereditary conditions due to a chromosomal abnormality – such as Down’s syndrome – or changes in the DNA sequences, and typically involves an invasive amniocentesis procedure. Yourgene Health, an international molecular diagnostics group, has developed an automated, non-invasive alternative, for more accurate and safer prenatal screening.

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Non-invasive screening tests for preventive healthcare

Aqsens Health is focused on developing non-invasive screening and diagnostic tests based on enhanced time-resolved fluorescence for health monitoring and detection of serious diseases, such as cancer, where early diagnosis is vital. With an increasing workload, the company has turned to automation to allow higher throughput and rapid delivery of high quality results.

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Responding to a pandemic

SARS-CoV-2 has hit the world by storm and testing has had a major part to play in the fight against the virus, helping to track cases and slow rates of infection. ABC Labs, based at the Karolinska campus in Stockholm, was founded soon after the start of the pandemic with the specific purpose of establishing large scale and high quality PCR and ELISA COVID-19 testing in Sweden. The laboratory analyzes thousands of tests on a daily basis in partnership with the country’s Public Health Agency and a number of regional and private healthcare providers, to help stop the virus.

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Bringing precision omics to life

The potential of ‘omics’ to further our understanding of cell biology and disease progression has been discussed for over 30 years, but these technologies have so far failed to translate to a healthcare setting. One of the major challenges has been the lack of reproducible results, making it difficult to distinguish between true discoveries and experimental artifacts. ProtiFi was founded to overcome these challenges: to solve the bottlenecks around sampling, sample preparation and data interpretation in order to accelerate the deployment of omics technologies in real-world clinical applications.

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