Liquid handling automation and optimization increases the throughput, speed, and robustness of clinical assays. While working with such assays, how can you reduce variability, maximize data quality and reproducibility, and improve efficiency?
You can use a systematic approach, called the process optimization approach, which involves breaking down the assay workflow into smaller modules to address each of the following concerns:
- What is the optimization goal for this module?
- How are the steps in this module currently being implemented?
- If this module is not sufficiently optimized, how would this impact the assay outcome?
- How can you assess how well this module is performing?
- Based on your assessment, what sources of variability and inaccuracy have you found and how can they be managed?
Automated liquid handlers facilitate assay transfer
Liquid handling variables have an impact on successful assay transfers. Clinical assays need to be robust even after assay transfer, such as when the assay is being transferred from one lab environment to another or when it is being taken our of its development stage to the implementation and quality control stages.
Four main steps are involved in optimizing liquid handling for assay transfer:
- Understand your assay
- Implement calibration and training programs
- Develop effective documentation
- Sustain knowledge transfer
Handling serum: a special case of automated liquid handling
Serum is a complex fluid whose properties differ from aqueous solutions. As such, automated liquid handlers (ALHs) performing serum-based assays need to be calibrated, verified, and optimized to account for these different properties. For example, using serum mimic solutions, which more closely match the liquid properties of serum, allow for more precise and accurate volume measurements taken with the MVS.
Troubleshooting your automated liquid handler
While ALHs make it easier to work with liquids in the lab, your clinical assay might nonetheless require strategic troubleshooting to pinpoint whether the source of error is ALH malfunction, an experimental design flaw, the reagent quality, or other sources of experimental or biological variability. Understanding the sources of liquid handling error are thus critical in mitigating them.
Assessing liquid handling performance with the multichannel verification system
Regardless of whether manual or automated liquid handling is performed, one of the most reliable ways to measure the precision and accuracy of dispensed volumes is through the ratiometric photometric method.
Watch this video to learn how the multichannel verification system (MVS) can be used for rapid calibration, verification, and optimization of dispensed volumes, courtesy of Artel.