Automated Electrophysiology: High Throughput of Art
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Electrophysiological measurements, in particular, patch clamping, have long been regarded as the “gold standard” for assaying ion channels. Despite its high information content, the technique suffers from laborious, manual processing by highly skilled workers and extremely low throughput. Recently, a number of researchers have started to automate patch clamping by either automating conventional micropipette-based patch clamping or developing planar microelectrode arrays. This article reviews the brief history of these emerging technologies and discusses the technical details, advantages, and disadvantages of each approach and technique. As will be evident from the discussion, two types of automated patch-clamping technologies are emerging. The first places emphasis on data quality, comparable to conventional patch clamping, and the second has much higher throughput. Future developments will include sophisticated patch-clamping devices with both high-quality data and high throughput capabilities and further integration of patch clamping with other cell-based assays.