Case story: Optimizing research workflows with the Qube 384 – ensuring the important link to the clinics and their patients’ treatments

As reactions to treatment vary widely among people suffering from neuropathic pain, clinical studies have mostly been unsuccessful. Finding a therapy that works often means years of “trial and error” for patients. “Not only is this difficult for the patients, but it’s also frustrating for the relationship between the patients and the doctors treating them,” explains Ralf Hausmann. “So, we would like to know how drugs work on ion channels and whether there are differences in the unmutated or mutated channels.”

“We’re looking for mutation changes in the voltage-gated sodium channels Nav1.7 and Nav1.8, so we measure their very small electrical current using highly sensitive amplifiers,” explains Angelika Lampert. “We normally do this one cell at a time by manual patch clamp electrophysiology with a tiny little glass pipette and then we check if the current flows in the cell and how the current is characterized.”

It’s a process that works, but it’s also incredibly time consuming. “If you really want to understand the function of a mutation, you need to look at many cells and do many measurements,” says Angelika Lampert.

"To speed up the process, we needed higher throughput and the ability to do more recordings at the same time. This was a key reason why we were so interested in a patch clamp robot"

— Angelika Lampert, University Professor, Principal investigator at Uniklinik RWTH Aachen

The ambition for Precision2Treat project is to show proof of concept. By using iPSC derived sensory neurons on the Qube to screen licensed drugs, the team hopes to identify compounds that are likely to reduce the excitability of the cells.

Today the team continues to use manual patch clamp to address specific questions, but the Qube is now giving them more possibilities and enabling them to do the kind of high throughput drug screening that would have been impossible with their previous setup. “Before, we would see a variant of a patient or a certain mutation in the sodium channel that is localized at the voltage sensor, and then we would analyze this specific property with manual patch clamp,” explains Ralf Hausmann. “But now we can run a pool of protocols analyzing most of the typical channel properties.”

Read the full customer case story here