|Volume 13, #24||The Scientist||December 6, 1999|
Tritech's Cloning Gun
The Cloning Gun is a cordless, rechargeable, handheld device weighing less than 1 lb. The user simply pipettes cells into the unique, disposable PipectrodeTM, pulls the trigger, and ejects transformed/transfected cells into the appropriate vessel. The MammoZapperTM version transfects a variety of commonly used mammalian cell lines with an efficiency of greater than 50 percent of viable cells. The BactoZapperTM version can be used to obtain up to 10 billion Escherichia coli transformants per microgram of input DNA.
Vinodh Narayanan, principal investigator in the department of neurology at Children's Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pa., has been using the Cloning Gun for the last six months. He finds that it compares favorably with lipofection procedures for transfecting neurons. As he sees it, the chief benefits of the Cloning Gun are threefold: "It's portable, it's easy to use, and the cost of the electrodes is relatively inexpensive."
According to company president Andrew Papp, one of the biggest challenges faced by the Cloning Gun's designers was making a $10 Pipectrode into a $1.50 disposable unit. "This took a few years to work out," said Papp. He explained the difficulty of perfecting the electrical and pressure connections necessary for the Cloning Gun's operation. Another problem with conventional electroporators is retrieving cell samples from the cuvettes. Because cells are negatively charged, they have a tendency to stick to the positively charged induction plate. Tritech's solution was to use stainless steel (noncytotoxic) electrodes in combination with an innovative rinsing system. The results of Tritech's efforts have been receiving favorable reviews.
University of California at Los Angeles biochemist Andrew Huang has been transfecting DNA into cells in order to understand how genes are regulated. He has used more conventional electroporators and finds that the Cloning Gun is much easier and cheaper to use. While describing how his laboratory has achieved high transfection efficiencies, Huang emphasized the simple one-step process that puts the Cloning Gun a step ahead of the competition. "You push the button, and that's it," said Huang.
Judith Austin, an assistant professor in the department of molecular genetics and cell biology at the University of Chicago, has been using the Cloning Gun to electroporate worms and bacteria for the past two years. Although she finds removing bacteria from the gun problematic at times, "it works well reproducibly," she said. "And it's also very cute. It looks like Barney."
--Brent Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org)