Making lab equipment on the cheap

IMAGE

Credit: Tom Baden

Laboratory equipment is one of the largest cost factors in neuroscience. However, many experiments can be performed with good results using self-assembled setups involving 3-D printed components and self-programmed electronics. In a study publishing July 18 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, André Maia Chagas and Tom Baden from the Universities of Tübingen and Sussex present "FlyPi" — a low-cost imaging and microscope system for research, training and teaching.

The intricate equipment necessary for modern neuroscience experiments can easily cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of Euros when relying on commercially available solutions, confining top-level research and scientific training to well-endowed institutes in rich countries.

"FlyPi" can perform many standard lab protocols, including light and fluorescence microscopy, optogenetics, thermogenetics, and behavioural studies on small animals such as roundworms, fruit flies, zebrafish larvae. The design is based on a 3-D printed framework holding a Raspberry Pi computer and camera, cheap LEDs for lighting and simple lenses, as well as optical and thermal control circuits based on Arduino, an open-source microcontroller. Taken together, the components cost less than 100 Euros for the basic system, and can be modified to suit the lab's purposes. The FlyPi system provides modular, low-cost options for research and assembly, and instructions for use are made available free of charge via open-source platforms.

The developers of the FlyPi system share a keen interest in spreading "open labware." Together with co-author Lucia Prieto Godino of the University of Lausanne, the developers have taught courses in 3 D printing, programming and DIY lab equipment at universities in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania. "Many institutions around the world have little money to spend on costly equipment," says Baden. "We think it is very important that neuroscientific training and research open up to larger numbers of students and junior scientists. So we hope that, with open labware such as our FlyPi, we can offer a starting point."

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In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Biology: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2002702

Citation: Maia Chagas A, Prieto-Godino LL, Arrenberg AB, Baden T (2017) The €100 lab: A 3D-printable open-source platform for fluorescence microscopy, optogenetics, and accurate temperature control during behaviour of zebrafish, Drosophila, and Caenorhabditis elegans. PLoS Biol 15(7): e2002702. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2002702

Image Caption: A 3D model of FlyPi (left) and the assembled FlyPi (right).

Image Credit: Tom Baden

Funding: H2020 ERC StG (grant number 677687). Support for TB. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Baden Wuerttemberg Stiftung (grant number AZ 1.16101.09). Support for TB. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The intramural fortüne program of the University of Tübingen (grant number 2125-0-0). Support for TB. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (grant number U01NS090562). Support for AMC. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (grant number BA 5283/1-1). Support for TB. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. CIN-Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuroscience (grant number EXC307). DFG funding to ABA. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

André Maia Chagas and Tom Baden are Channels Editors of the PLOS Open Source Toolkit. The Open Source Toolkit features articles and online projects describing hardware and software that can be used in a research and/or science education setting across different fields, from basic to applied research. The Channel Editors aim to showcase how open source tools can lead to innovation, democratisation and increased reproducibility. To learn more about PLOS Channels visit.

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Related Journal Article

http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2002702

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