The The Steady Rise of Automated Laboratory Equipment

Laboratory equipment, although largely unnoticed, now plays an important role in more areas of our lives than at any time in the past. Much of this increased importance can be attributed to the ongoing and successful efforts to automate its functions.  Where once its use was largely confined to such fields as geology, metallurgy and, of course, medicine, all of which involve a need for various types of chemical analysis and assay, the scope for its applications is no longer so limited.

This progress has been driven by a number of factors of which the knowledge gained through research has been among the most significant. For instance, improved insight into the relationship between enzyme levels and disease has led to new test methods, and the need for new laboratory equipment.

When Crick and Watson first revealed the structure and function of DNA, they released a number of powerful genies from captivity. These would later be responsible for a greater understanding of genetics and, with it, the emergence of new possibilities, such as genetically modified crops and a new insight into the causes of many inherited disorders that was to result in the new science of gene therapy.

Although knowledge may motivate new possibilities, it is demand that will determine their relevance and, where this is high, the need for automation soon follows. Despite the discovery of the double helix, it took five more decades before the human genome was finally sequenced and another nine years to develop the laboratory equipment that would automate the process sufficiently to make mass sequencing a practical reality.

Although those same decades have seen the emergence of organ and bone marrow transplants, in vitro fertilisation and stem cell therapy, all of which now rely on automation to some degree, not all of the development has been confined to medical fields. The food and beverage industry has been placed under the spotlight following greater knowledge of human allergies and conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

It is no longer only necessary for a company to ensure that its products are free of harmful bacteria. Today, it is a legal requirement for manufacturers to list their nutrient content, as well as indicate the presence of any potential allergens. As in medicine, the laboratory equipment required to keep up with the huge consumer demand for these products has necessitated the introduction of new methodologies that have sufficiently high levels of sensitivity, accuracy and reproducibility to be relied upon. In addition, the sheer volume of samples that must be tested on a daily basis has made it important to develop devices that are able to automate at least some aspects of the required test procedures.

Of course, freedom from bacterial contamination remains as important as ever and laboratory equipment for this is needed by those responsible for the supply of potable water, the cleanliness of areas used in food preparation and the monitoring of sterile supplies. Among the requirements for these tasks are automated plating devices for colony counting and chemical luminescence detectors.

All of these items and far more are available in South Africa from IEPSA. We source world-class products from leading international manufacturers and supply support needed to ensure that you can leverage the full benefits of your laboratory equipment.

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