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Accelerating Single-Cell Research with Powerful Dispensing

The D100 digital dispense by HP.
HP’s simple but powerful software combines cell isolation and reagent dispense for workflow miniaturization. Researchers can dispense single cells, as well as precisely dispense picoliter through microliter volumes of reagents in an easy-to-navigate user interface with real time reporting built in. Credit: HP.
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IT company HP Inc. recently launched its D100 single-cell dispenser, which utilizes the company’s inkjet-based microfluidics technology to enable single-cell analysis with high occupancy, viability and precision.

At the American Society for Mass Spectrometry’s 2023 meeting, Technology Networks had the pleasure of interviewing Christie Dudenhoefer, manager of Life Science Solutions Business at HP, and Dr. Ryan Kelly, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Brigham Young University, to learn more about the product’s functions and applications across single-cell research.


Molly Campbell (MC): How has HP developed the D100 single-cell dispenser, and what customer need was it aiming to fulfill?


Christie Dudenhoefer (CD): HP launched the D100 single-cell dispenser commercially last winter and we have been deploying it with customers, including Dr. Kelly, for around a year prior to the commercial launch. It’s a product that's based on HP’s inkjet printing technology, so it’s effectively a printer for cells and reagents.


It’s building upon a product that we have released to market previously, over five years ago, which focused on reagent dispensing. This new product takes that core reagent dispensing functionality and adds single-cell isolation into it. There's a new printhead that conducts cell detection and cell isolation and works with the whole solution to give end users a report of which wells or defined locations have single cells and which don’t.


MC: Can you talk about how researchers are using the single-cell dispenser in research fields such as proteomics?


Ryan Kelly (RK): We're using it for single-cell proteomics. We have done some independent verification where, if the D100 says it has dispensed a cell, we go and actually look for that cell. We found very good agreement with a readout and a ground truth microscopy observation.


Besides cell dispensing, we like to use the product for dispensing reagents. We can fill up a well plate in an incredibly short period of time. We have also independently characterized the volumes that the device says it will dispense versus what it measurably dispenses based on fluorescence-based assays, and it is spot on. We have tested it over a range from nanoliters to microliters, and it’s really fast. There’s minimal cleaning required as it’s a disposable cartridge, so just like using an inkjet printer, when the cartridge runs out, you put in a new one.

MC: In single-cell research, having a product that can work quickly and reliably is very important – can you tell us why?


RK: The workflows are complex because you are working at the single-cell level, which means there are many repeated steps required for individual cells. Previously, sample preparation for such experiments might have required an entire day or more, whereas now we can complete our sample prep in one hour.


MC: There is a huge discussion surrounding democratization with regard to scientific technologies at the moment. What is HP’s angle on this?


CD: We're trying to make the reagent dispensing portion of a single-cell isolation process more accessible, very easy to use and more affordable for proteomics, genomics and cell line development, enabling a variety of different workflows. It's obviously a growing area of research, but it's hard to miniaturize the workflows. We believe that technology can really add a lot of value there, and that’s our focus.


MC: Are there any particular applications of the product that you think are really important to highlight?


CD: Right now, most of our early customers are using the D100 for single-cell proteomics, where it seems to be a really nice fit for that workflow.


We probably have the next most traction with some collaborators doing single-cell genomics work. We have a commercial collaborator that's using the system with some of their customers to automate the dispensing of their chemistries and the single-cell isolation. It’s a very similar workflow: you’re putting the cells in the wells and adding different reagents, but in genomics the final readout is sequencing rather than mass spectrometry.


MC: Christie, in your opinion, what’s the next step for HP in this space

CD: This is a really exciting space, with ample room for innovation to alleviate previously labor-intensive processes. Others in the industry agree. We’ve just agreed to provide the D100 solution commercially through our valued channel partner, Tecan, which will be selling the solution globally as the Tecan Uno Single Cell Dispenser.

I can also confirm that HP plans to continue enhancing the usability of the D100 solution through the ongoing development of new features, which enable researchers to more easily execute their workflows. We’re motivated by the new products on our roadmap that build upon the D100 functionality with more advanced HP microfluidics and sensing technology. These products will bring improved cell isolation and other advanced features that we hope will accelerate important scientific research even further.


Christie Dudenhoefer, manager of Life Science Solutions Business at HP, and Dr. Ryan Kelly, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Brigham Young University, were speaking to Molly Campbell, Senior Science Writer for Technology Networks.