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FlySorter's engineering team has years of experience building automated systems, and a stable of technology for dispensing, manipulating and imaging Drosophila. We can adapt an existing solution to your needs, or design something brand new.
Case Study: A Drosophila Larva Repositioning Robot
In 2016, FlySorter signed on to help the Klein Lab at the University of Miami in Florida augment their experimental capabilities. Dr. Klein uses fruit fly larvae to study biophysics and neuroscience, relying on a fairly simple setup: a sheet of agar gel and a video camera.
The Klein Lab records videos of crawling larvae on a bed of black agar and then analyzes their behavior. The duration of the experiments are limited mainly by the size of the agar bed — when the larvae reach the edge of the sheet, their behavior is constrained (or they crawl off altogether) — and for 3rd instar larvae on a 10″ square sheet, it can be as quick as 10 or 15 minutes. We proposed using a robot and novel vacuum nozzle to pick up larvae that get too close to the edge, replacing them near the center and thereby extending the experiments.
We combined off-the-shelf parts like stepper motors, linear slides, solenoid valves, a high-resolution camera, and a motor control PCB with 3d printed and laser cut parts, as well as custom software, to create a robotic system that can accurately find, pick up and replace larvae on the agar bed. We created 15-20 different prototypes of the nozzle alone, tuning the design to ensure the larvae were picked up and replaced reliably and repeatably, without damage to the organisms. Our Python scripts make setup, calibration, and running experiments simple and speedy.
The video below shows the robot picking up and redepositing a light-colored larva on the dark (black) agar bed. Larvae do not see the color red, so while the LEDs provide ample illumination for imaging, they do not affect behavior.
FlySorter completed this project with a budget under $15k, on a schedule agreed upon by the two parties.
FlySorter Brings engineering expertise to the biology lab
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