Stepping into High Gear

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IMRIC PhD student Roy Granit
Roy Granit is currently pursuing his PhD in Biomedical Research at The Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) at The Hebrew University.
PhD Student Roy Granit
In the lab

People often ask me, what is it that I do all day? I usually tell them that I am transferring liquids, small amounts of liquids, from one container to another. Of course this is an understatement of actual scientific work, which involves many other aspects, yet aspirating and dispensing liquids (containing cells, DNA, chemical compounds...etc.) remains at the basis of most experimental work. But what if someone else could do these steps for you, repeatedly, more accurately and would not complain about it?

For these reasons automated liquid handlers were developed, and in recent years they are becoming more accessible to the broad scientific public. These instruments enable the handling of small amount of liquids across a large amount of samples, and thus allow the user to conduct thousands of small-scale experiments. This methodology enable experiments otherwise not possible due to the huge amount of work needed to conduct them (therefore named high-throughput screening), and allow researches to address more complex questions. The uncovering of the human genome, ten years ago, involved the use of such system to handle the vast amounts of material and work needed; this greatly fuelled the field and has thrived ever since. 

Recently, the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, IMRIC has acquired a state of the art Hamilton ‘Starlet’ robotic liquid handler, to be used by researchers throughout the institute. The purchase was led by Dr. Ittai Ben-Porath, and Dr. Miriam Kott-Gutkowski, head of the MicroArray Service Laboratory at The Core Research Facility, where the system is positioned. The system will allow IMRIC researchers to expedite their research and preform many interesting experiments, such as cancer or disease drug screening, DNA sample extraction and sequencing, identification of protein interactions and much more. 

Personally, I plan to use this wonderful tool in order to seek genes responsible for the formation of aggressive subtypes of breast cancer, and hopefully uncover how to manipulate them to prevent tumor growth. So the next time someone asks me what I am doing, I’ll simply say I’m monitoring a robot.

Click here to learn about the history of automated liquid handlers

Click here to  see the screening unit at the Broad institute

Click here to see the robot in action.