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Photograph of two clinical lab personnel discussing how to best optimize liquid handling variables to ensure the success of their clinical assays.
Liquid handling is ubiquitous for assays in the clinical lab, and therefore its automation and optimization increases assay throughput, speed, and robustness.
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Successful Clinical Assays Need Optimized Liquid Handling

Tools and tips to calibrate, verify, and optimize automated liquid handlers

Published:Aug 04, 2022
|3 min read

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:

  1. What is the optimization goal for this module?
  2. How are the steps in this module currently being implemented?
  3. If this module is not sufficiently optimized, how would this impact the assay outcome?
  4. How can you assess how well this module is performing?
  5. Based on your assessment, what sources of variability and inaccuracy have you found and how can they be managed?

Download this white paper to learn about a framework for process optimization for assays, courtesy of Artel.

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.

Photograph of two lab personnel working with automated liquid handlers for assay transfer.
iStock, sanjeri

Four main steps are involved in optimizing liquid handling for assay transfer:

  1. Understand your assay
  2. Implement calibration and training programs
  3. Develop effective documentation
  4. Sustain knowledge transfer

Download this lab report to learn how to facilitate successful assay transfers by controlling the liquid handling variables in your laboratory, courtesy of Artel.

Handling serum: a special case of automated liquid handling

Photograph of clinical lab personnel working with blood samples for serum-based assays involving liquid handling.
iStock, Tippapatt

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.

Download this poster to learn about how serum-based assays can be optimized for automated liquid handling, courtesy of Artel.

Troubleshooting your automated liquid handler

Photograph of two clinical personnel troubleshooting automated liquid handling in the clinical lab.
iStock, martin-dm

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.

Download this poster to learn how to troubleshoot your automated liquid handler, courtesy of Artel.

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.