Do your microplate readers agree?
Sep 29, 2016
Many life science labs rely on microplate readers for quantitative data acquisition on a wide range of assays, and some labs have multiple readers. Typically, the results from each reader are treated as interchangeable—the expectation is that instrument-to-instrument variability should be low.
But measurement variability from one plate reader to the next (Figure 1), or even from different channels in a multi-channel plate reader can add as much as 3.5% to the total measurement uncertainty (Figure 2).
Figure 1. Variation in absorbance measurements between different brands of microplate reader versus a reference measurement.
Figure 2. Variation in absorbance measurements between different channels of an 8-channel plate reader versus a reference measurement.
While 3.5% measurement uncertainty may not seem like a large number for many life science studies, measurement uncertainties can add up, leading to less precise data that can hide statistically significant results. By characterizing the measurement performance of all microplate readers within a lab, researchers can minimize the measurement uncertainty contributed to assay results from plate reader measurements for improved comparison of data from one reader to the next.
While there are many ways to evaluate the performance of a plate reader, the Artel team has developed a procedure using Artel solutions, discussed in the technical poster “Do Plate Readers Agree? Understanding Performance Differences between Different Plate Reader Makes/Models.” Once the performance differences between plate readers in a lab have been assessed, one reader can be designated the reference, and simple conversions may be used to adjust the measurements from one reader to the reference measurement.
While variability from one plate reader to another can add to measurement uncertainty, a few simple steps can make the data more reliably comparable.
- Poster: Do Plate Readers Agree?
- Publication: Growth Rates Made Easy. Barry G. Hall, Hande Acar, Anna Nandipati, and Miriam Barlow. Mol Biol Evol, first published online October 28, 2013; doi:10.1093/molbev/mst187. Accessed 9/23/16.
- Video: JoVE Science Education Database. General Laboratory Techniques. Introduction to the Microplate Reader. JoVE, Cambridge, MA, doi: 10.3791/5024 (2016). (Transcript text viewable without subscription.)
About the Expert
Tanya Knaide is a scientist with over 10 years of experience in leading new product development projects, product launch campaigns and uncovering customer needs to develop innovative new products and services to satisfy them. As Product Manager at Artel, Tanya has led cross-functional and inter-organizational teams that span across R&D, engineering and marketing and ensured that development and marketing projects deliver benefits to the customer in a timely manner.