Speed up assay automation and ensure performance with streamlined liquid class optimization
Getting liquid class settings right is a critical, but often neglected aspect of automating an assay that can reduce CVs and improve reproducibility.
Are sub-optimal liquid class settings holding your assay back?
One of the biggest challenges when automating an assay is getting the liquid classes right. Without optimization, both the accuracy and precision of liquid transfers can be negatively impacted, leading to increased variability in assay results. Yet the importance of liquid class optimization is often underestimated, with many labs relying on their automated liquid handler’s built-in liquid classes. The problem with this approach is that liquid classes are unique to the liquid being transferred, the tips and plates used in the transfer, the temperature of the liquid, and the specific liquid handler being used. With so many variables, labs that want the best assay performance really need to spend more time optimizing liquid classes. The good news is that by using an MVS (Multichannel Verification System), spending “more” time optimizing liquid classes doesn’t have to mean wasting a lot of time.
Nathaniel Hentz, PHD
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If you would like more details on how Artel can support your assay, whether it is troubleshooting, optimization, or assay transfer, don’t hesitate to reach out—we are here to help.
When optimizing your automatic liquid handlers (ALHs), it is best to use liquid types similar to what you use your assay. Indeed, different liquids have different physical properties (density, viscosity, surface tension), and behave differently when handled by your ALHs. Using water as the default liquid class for your volume verification method can lead to biased data and costly errors down the road. To help you with your ALH optimization, Artel offers 4 different QualAssure solutions, so you can choose the ones that best mimic your liquid types:
- Aqueous QualAssure for a fast and straightforward optimization process with water-based solutions
- DMSO QualAssure to validate your liquid transfers whenever dimethyl sulfoxide solvent is used
- PCRMix QualAssure to mimic commercial PCR master mix in any of your molecular assays (qPCR, NGS)
- SerumSub QualAssure to mimic various human and animal sera in assays where quantification of serum is of the utmost importance.
- Stock Solution to prepare and test your alternative custom solutions
Liquid classes explained
Challenging liquid transfers, such as ones involving 6 or more solutions with low surface tension, are common in molecular biology assays and experienced manual pipette operators often adjust their technique without thinking. They do things like slowing down the pipetting speed, pausing more (or less), or adding in air gaps. But when an assay is transferred to an automated system, those adjustments need to be explicitly programmed into the liquid handler to ensure accurate and precise liquid handling. These adjustments are implemented by changing the liquid class settings.
MVS Multichannel Verification System
Do you know if your automated liquid handler volumes are on target, run after run?
Verify volume transfer precision and accuracy in your lab and simplify regulatory compliance with the easy-to-use MVS.
The MVS streamlines liquid class optimization
Optimizing liquid classes can seem tedious but with an MVS, the process is fast and straightforward. Simply set up your assay and use the MVS QualAssure solution that best mimics your liquid. Choose between Aqueous, DMSO, PCRMix, SerumSub or create your own Alternative Solution to best match the liquid being dispensed. You can test different liquid class settings and then use the MVS to measure how the setting affects liquid handling accuracy and precision.
The above statistics presented in the “Before and After” ALH liquid class optimization figure demonstrate how optimizing liquid classes can improve accuracy and precision, ensuring reproducible results.
The MVS streamlines liquid class optimization
Not all liquids are created equal or respond as aqueous solutions do. Some liquid handler manufacturers address these differences by integrating generic liquid classes into their platform. Preset liquid classes can often be modified and depending on your automated liquid handler, there may be a variety of parameters that can be adjusted to optimize your liquid class.
A variety of approaches can be taken to adjust the parameters and find the best settings for your liquid class. Typically, one parameter is modified for each test run until your dispense volumes are optimized. Depending on the specific ALH you are using, you may have the ability to adjust some or all of the following parameters:
- Aspirate and dispense speed
- Aspirate and dispense height
- Non-contact, tip touch, or wet dispense
- Immersion depth during aspiration
- Immersion depth during dispense (for wet dispenses)
- Blowout volume
- Blowout speed
- Delay after aspirating or dispensing
- Accuracy offset or calibration factor
- Modification of the deck layout (for example raising or lowering plate height when you cannot change the set dispense height can cut down time and improve results)
Performance can be optimized by creating distinct liquid classes for the same liquids being dispensed over different volume ranges.
Optimizing liquid classes gets assays into production faster
Working with well-defined liquid classes can cut the time it takes to get an assay into production and improve assay quality by reducing variability stemming from liquid handling. With an MVS, getting this important step done is transformed from challenge into challenge-solved.
Are you ready to take your assay optimization to the next level with an MVS? Contact us to get started.
Easily ensure accurate and precise volume transfers
And, of course, the MVS is a great tool to ensure that your liquid handlers are performing as expected by making it easy to perform weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual volume verification checks as needed for your regulated or non-regulated lab.
Get extra support with Artel Services, Training and Consulting Support
Need expert help with any of these tasks? Artel offers a complete suite of consulting services including automated liquid handler calibration, assay optimization support, proper pipette technique assessment, industry and ISO guidance, training, and more.
See all the ways Artel helps big pharma, biotechs, CROs, instrument manufacturers, and diagnostics companies generate data and deliver services that they and their customers can trust.