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RFID Tracks Consumables in Genetic Analyzers

Applied Biosystems is marketing devices with RFID readers to help eliminate the need to redo a time-consuming genetic test.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 05, 2009Applied Biosystems, a division of biotechnology tool company Life Technologies Corp., is marketing two new lines of genetic analyzers that will employ RFID technology to track the lifespan of consumables as they are used in genetic research, or for diagnostic purposes.

The 3500 Series, designed for research use only, will be sold worldwide, to be utilized by universities and laboratories in researching DNA from plants, humans or other animals. The 3500 Dx Series, to be used for medical diagnostic purposes, will be sold only in seven countries in Europe. Either series can also be employed to separate strands of DNA for identification purposes, such as forensics (earlier versions had been used to determine the first map of the human genome).

The 3500 Series Genetic Analyzer

Both models will be available in August 2009, and will include RFID technology, which Applied Biosystems is using for the first time to track substances that the devices consume during genetic tests. These consumable substances—namely, polymers, buffers and arrays of glass capillaries—are inserted into the machine prior to genetic testing. After a certain amount of use, they must be replaced, but the lifetime of a consumable item varies depending on the type of testing being performed, as well as how long that item has remained in the machine.

Capillary array
Each test also requires an array of narrow glass capillaries in which DNA strands are injected, explains Andy Felton, Applied Biosystems' senior product line manager of capillary electrophoresis systems. The testing results will be affected in situations where, for example, consumables are not working correctly, the capillary array has passed its expiration date or the quantity of polymer or buffer has run low.

To date, operators of genetic analyzers have tracked the use of consumables themselves, maintaining a manual log or looking at a bottle of polymer or buffer to estimate the amount of fluid remaining.

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