Mash It Up
Bertin Technologies’ way of breaking down cells is “not really innovative,” confessed Quitterie Brossard-Desjonqueres, the company’s lab equipment marketing manager. “The shock between tubes, sample, and beads will grind the sample. It’s quite a simple technology. There are a lot of other systems working with bead beating.”
What’s different about Bertin’s Precellys line of biological sample grinders, she said, is the specific movement of the tubes. In addition to moving up and down they also move on the lateral aspect, making the beads form a figure 8 inside the tube, which allows for more efficient grinding.
To homogenize tissue, spores, noncultivatable microorganisms, and even viruses, samples are placed in a tube with buffer and beads. Different samples demand different sizes and different material beads—glass, ceramic, or metallic. The 2,000 or so protocols on the Bertin website will also indicate the optimal speed and duration. “If you go too strong or too long, your sample will be damaged and your results will be bad,” Brossard-Desjonqueres noted.
Mortar and pestle are still used in many R&D labs that don’t have a lot of samples, or that frequently process different samples. “The problem is that it’s not a standardized method, it’s always different from one operator to another one.”
Earlier this year Bertin launched Minilys, a smaller bead beater-homogenizer, based on the same technology. Minilys can accommodate either three small (0.5 or 2 mL) tubes, or a single 7 mL tube.
Other models, designed for higher throughput, can handle up to 24 tubes simultaneously. These are available as stand-alone units—which give R&D-type labs flexibility in terms of sample type and size—or integrated into a global solution.