Environmental effects on high-throughput screening plates

Nov 17, 2015

high-throughput-screeningHave you ever stopped to think about how much water may be evaporating from (or accumulating in) the wells of your 384-well plate while it’s just sitting around on a bench or on the deck of an automated liquid handler? If you have, have you taken the time to measure loss or absorption?

At Artel, accuracy (and precision) are very important to us, and worrying about how the environment affects our samples can keep some of our scientists up all night. For example, Doreen Rumery, our lab manager, has humidity sensors, temperature sensors, and vibration sensors across the lab, all tied to a large computer display that continually tracks conditions. These sensors are in place so that when we check samples from our calibration controls, we know exactly the conditions under which we took our measurements for optimal accuracy, precision, and day-to-day sample comparison.

But back to the multi-well plate. Clearly, both the macro environment of the lab—humidity, temperature, even air currents and the location of air vents—and the micro environment of different wells on a single plate can affect the physics happening at the air-liquid interface. In addition, whether the plate is capped or sealed, the material of the seal, and the water content of neighboring wells can also be important factors governing evaporation (for aqueous samples) or absorption (for example, for compounds solubilized in DMSO ). So is the effect of evaporation or absorption significant over the time periods that your plate is just sitting around?

A team from Artel did the experiment to find out and published their results in GEN—Measuring Volume Changes in Screening Plates. Using the Volume Measurement System (VMS) to measure well volume every hour for eight hours, they found that the uncovered aqueous sample (tissue culture grade water) lost almost 15% volume over eight hours, while uncovered DMSO samples gained over 15% volume in that same time period.  Imagine the increase/decrease in reagent concentrations occurring with that much loss of solvent, and the effects on your results at the end of eight hours.

While this scenario may not be typical—many researchers will cover or seal plates that are lying around—it does raise the question of what happens with sealed or covered plates. The team ran a few plates using these conditions as well and you can see the complete data set in the GEN article.

If you’re curious about how much evaporation or absorption is happening under the conditions that mean the most to you—your lab, your reagents, your workflows—let us know and we can schedule a volume measurement demo. It’s just one of the ways Artel can provide quick volume checks to increase data quality for high-throughput screening and compound management.

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About the Expert

Pia Abola

Pia Abola is a scientist who walked out of the lab five years ago and stumbled into the world of marketing. She never had to look back because it turns out that she’s mostly doing the same things–both her lab work and her marketing work revolve around signalling and information transfer. Chemical, biochemical, behavioral, or digital signals, the math is the same — it’s just scale and medium that differs.