Automated Cell Staining in Drug Discovery

(April 9, 2013) - Cell and molecular biology become more integral pieces of the modern drug discovery process on a seemingly daily basis. Monitoring the interaction of cells and internal cellular activity provides vital information about cell health, changes in disease states, and the response of targets to potential therapeutic compounds.

The ability to visualize biological activity at the cellular level has been a key element in drug discovery. The addition of automation and high-volume screening methods provided the ability to test large numbers of compounds. Together, imaging and screening are significant technological drivers of pharmaceutical research.

Cancer cells offer an illustrative example. Screening large volumes of samples, usually in microplates on robotic platforms, enables efficient testing of a compound against a specific type of cancer at various stages in its development. Alternately, researchers can monitor the cellular changes that occur in response to a compound over time.

In genetic research, expressed proteins provide important indicators of successful up-regulation or down-regulation of proteins and activities governed by newly introduced genes. Again, changes in cellular behavior over time can be valuable indicators of biological functionality, response levels, and other beneficial indicators of treatment viability.

Cell staining is a very time- and labor-intensive process, alternating between pipetting steps and incubation periods, and can take hours or even a day with large batches. While important time-savings are achieved, so, too, is consistency, from lot to lot, batch to batch, and day to day. These benefits hold true throughout the drug discovery process and with all kinds of cells.