Development of a simple function robot for automated spot assay experiments in yeast

Robots and computers are being increasingly utilized to automate life-science experiments, offering improved efficiency and reproducibility while optimizing the allocation of human resources. However, challenges arise from the use of large, multifunctional robots or specialized equipment, leading to difficulties in installing new equipment in regular laboratories. Currently, there are limited examples of automated life-science experiments using robots with simple functions, which could be easily installed. Therefore, expanding the capabilities and applications of such robots is crucial for advancing laboratory automation.

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have developed an automated spot assay system for budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), a model eukaryotic organism, using a liquid-dispensing robot with simple functions. Spot assays are experiments used to evaluate differences in the growth potential of yeast on agar media and are commonly used in genetics and toxicology. However, the only possible automation methods to date have involved high-cost approaches such as large robots and specialized equipment.

The team has devised a new method for automatically correcting variations in the height of agar media, along with a system to automatically observe and quantify yeast growth. This has enabled the development of an automated spot assay system, connected to a liquid-dispensing robot and a flatbed scanner. Quantitative comparisons between manual and automated spot assay experiments showed that the accuracy of the automated system was comparable to that of the manual experiments. The findings are published in the journal SLAS Technology.

These achievements are expected to facilitate the adoption of automated experiments by a broader range of researchers. Moreover, the new system could serve as the foundation for automating larger-scale yeast experiments and AI-driven experiments.

Source: University of Tsukuba

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