Past couple of months we have been busy building equipment for our project. We need the following pieces of equipment:
- Fluorescent microscope allowing to image activity in newly defined neurons and, hopefully other things. This was done using Thorlabs optical parts and mechanics. It’s very simple, lightweight and can be (in theory) used directly in a CO2 incubator if we figure out how to save the camera from wet environment. Here is an example of calcium imaging of HeLa cells. As you can see the spatial resolution can be improved but this is not critical for our goals as we don’t need to define calcium dynamics on a sub-cellular level.
- Automatic syringe pumps (at least 4 or 8). Commercially available pumps are ridiculously expensive and we have decided to build our own. Mechanical parts were printed and modified from available internet analogue, https://www.instructables.com/id/3D-Printed-Syringe-Pump-Rack/ although ours is more elegant and stylish 🙂 We used Nema 17 step motors, which may be a bit of an overkill as the pumps quite substantially vibrate when moving the plunger. The motors are controlled using Arduino and CNC expansion shield. Here is an example of a mock experiment:
- Our next step is building a programmable solution application robot to be used with the above two. It will automatically apply solution in a 96 well plate and will allow subsequent imaging of calcium dynamics. Sounds like lots of fun.