Repetitive Stress Disorder: BioSero’s Approach [A Blog Series]
Part 3: The Importance of Automated Cappers/Decappers
Conducting laboratory experiments generally means the analyst is running one or more analyses several times, perhaps varying one parameter at a time. The assay modification could be the test compound, a modifier added to optimize uptake, the incubation time, the temperature etc. While each experiment is different, the sample preparation for each assay is likely the same or very similar for each run. Add to that, samples may be run in duplicate, or there may be a large number of test reagents to be screened, resulting in a large number of samples per analysis.
Prior to the analysis, there are a sequence of operator actions to prepare the sample for the assay. A typical example would be to extract the material of interest from a sample using liquid-liquid extraction, followed by addition of the reaction reagents. Typically, one or the other solvent is organic, immiscible in the other solution. For these types of samples, glass is preferred for its inertness to solvents, particularly organics. The samples would be transferred to a glass vial, the extraction solvent added and the vial capped tightly to prevent leaks.
After a certain amount of shaking, the vials must be decapped and the extraction solvent or the original sample solution removed. Perhaps a reaction solution is added to the sample, and the vials recapped tightly, shaken and incubated. Imagine this process repeated for 24 or more total samples, controls and standards over several reagent additions. There is a lot of repeated vial uncapping/capping requiring the analyst to use a twist motion over and over again. The twist motion can, and has resulted in muscle injuries to the forearm and even the shoulder.
This type of repetitive stress injury can be reduced or eliminated by investment in the right robotic device that does the decapping and capping. By automating this one process, the laboratory saves on several levels.
1. An automated Capper/Decapper prevents the possibility of the repetitive stress and the associated cost in lost resources and time as well as the savings in medical costs.
2. An automated Capper/Decapper runs the process the same way every time, so each vial is capped to the same specification, increasing sample preparation precision.
3. An automated Capper/Decapper allows the analyst to ‘walk away’ from the repetitive task and allows them to focus their attention on other aspects of the analysis.
For less than the cost of one analyst, the lab can achieve a resource cost savings and prevention of the effects of repetitive stress.