Duncan NRI Robots for High-throughput Screening

Fruit Fly Transferring Robot

In 2023, the Duncan Neurological Research Institute (NRI) researcher, Dr. Juan Botas, and his team partnered with ABB Robotics engineers to design and build YuMi - the world's first collaborative robot that can transfer fruit flies between vials without the need for anesthesia. This new robot can revolutionize the maintenance and transfer of Drosophila strains, a task that previously consumed countless hours of manual labor in labs and stock centers globally.

The innovative robot designed by the NRI and ABB Robotics team is equipped with dual human-like arms, enhancing efficiency in the transfer process. It adeptly uncaps old vials, seamlessly transfers flies to fresh vials, swiftly caps the new vials, and discards the old ones into a sealed compartment, effectively preventing the escape and cross-contamination of fly strains.

A significant technical feature integrated into this robot is its capability to read barcodes and print labels, which it applies to the vials with strain and genotype information during the transfer operation. This feature ensures meticulous tracking and management of the Drosophila strains.

The robot's advanced sensing technologies enable precise placement of vials within standard cardboard tray configurations, granting researchers versatility in application and reducing operational costs. Furthermore, the robot is engineered to be cooperative and safe for human interaction. Its motion-sensing limbs are equipped to detect nearby humans or objects, halting movement instantly to prevent accidents, thereby allowing for a safe collaborative workspace.

This pioneering robot not only optimizes workflow but also aligns with the evolving needs of contemporary research, affording scientists more time to dedicate to complex research endeavors.

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High-Throughput Screening Robot

This industrial-grade robot can execute small molecule and genetic screenings using a variety of thoroughly validated Drosophila models of human neurological diseases. These models are instrumental in studying diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's disease, various types of spinocerebellar ataxias, myotonic dystrophy type 1, and a spectrum of lysosomal storage disorders, among others. The robot employs a suite of robust quantitative assays designed for high-throughput genetic and chemical screening. Crucially, these assays do not rely on conventional cell death phenotypes, which do not fully exploit the potential of organism-level screening. Instead, they utilize assays for neuronal dysfunction that are grounded in quantitative behavioral readouts, offering a more nuanced view of mechanisms acting early during disease progression. The robot's sophisticated software analyzes a variety of motion metrics from video recordings of fruit fly movement. By doing so, it evaluates the effectiveness of potential therapeutic interventions on neuronal dysfunction caused by well-established human disease mutations and triggers.

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