A Day in the Lab: Improvising with 3D-Printing for Standardised Experiments

🕒 Approximate reading time: 3 minutes

In the realm of scientific research, the need for improvisation is a given. In today's lab adventure, we delve into the world of 3D printing, an innovative technology that helped standardise a cell migration assay.

Timelapse: The process of designing and making 3D-printed lab equipment.

Our challenge today was tracking the position of individual cells over time in a migration assay, after inhibiting a protein of some immortalised cells. The goal was to ascertain if they migrated from one spot in the dish to another.

However, the scale posed a challenge. The dish was 100 mm in diameter, with each cell measuring approximately 4 μm, and over 20 million cells in the dish! The question was, how could we ensure that we were observing the exact same group of cells every time we placed the dish under the microscope?

The solution came in the form of a 3D-printed piece of plastic of specific dimensions that fit snugly beneath the dish. The design of the plastic was such that it covered the entire bottom of the dish, apart from five strategically placed holes. These holes aligned perfectly with the diameter of the field of view when looking down the microscope, allowing us to observe through these holes each time we needed to check the cells, ensuring a consistent spot over time.

This simple solution exemplifies how innovation, combined with some geometric formulae and basic programming, can significantly enhance scientific experiments.

I'm eager to hear your thoughts! Do you have any suggestions for improving this technique?

For those interested in the technical side of things, I've made the code for this 3D print available on my GitHub page here.