Agilent said the system is designed to replace tedious, time-consuming gel electrophoresis, thereby facilitating large-scale genomic and proteomic applications. Although one of the oldest and most widely used analytical techniques, gel electrophoresis suffers from a lack of automation, low reproducibility and difficulties in comparing data.
The Agilent 5100 provides two key advantages over gel electrophoresis - full automation and reproducible, digital data. The system automates the entire electrophoresis workflow of sample handling and analysis, lowering per-sample analysis time by a factor of 10 and allowing unattended analysis of up to 3,840 samples per run. It also minimises sample and reagent use, which reduces hazardous waste and per-sample cost, according to Agilent.
Gel electropheresis suffers from producing subjective data, but new system overcomes this by the use of internal reference standards. The digital data can be archived and data-mined with multiple filters and queries. All data is stored within an Oracle database, which enables users to easily analyse millions of data points and thousands of samples.
The Agilent 5100 processes samples from industry-standard 96- or 384-well plates, 10 of which can be inserted at a time. An automated, robotic handling mechanism loads the sample with reagents and internal reference standards onto a microfluidic chip for separation and detection.
The system software automatically analyses the results, generating high-quality digital data as well as a gel-like image and electropherogram. All resources required for analysis, including samples, reagents, chips, and pipette tips, are stored within the benchtop instrument.
The system has been launched alongside two dedicated assay kits, consisting of chip and reagents. These are The DNA 1000 HT-4 kit for qualitative and quantitative verification of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and multiplex PCR samples or for screening of double-stranded DNA fragments; and the Protein 200 HT-2 kit for sizing and quantification of proteins during purification or protein expression experiments.
Each Agilent 5100 chip can be reused several thousand times before replacement.
One early adopter of the system, Neil Winegarden of the microarray center of the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, Canada, said: "We believe this unit will allow us to have much greater control over our QC procedures, providing higher-quality data over our traditional methodologies."
Agilent introduced the first commercial lab-on-a-chip system, the Agilent 2100 bioanalyser, in 1999. Since then the company has sold more than 1 million bioanalyser chips.