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How to Reduce the Risk of RSI in 384-well Applications

Lab Academy

With the advent of the high-throughput screening approach, the need for a microplate with a larger number of wells appeared and was quickly implemented as a consumable for plate assays. Applications performed in 384-well plates require repetitive liquid handling steps. Automated pipetting platforms represent an investment that smaller labs or companies often cannot afford. Then multi-channel pipettes are preferred. Thus, 16 or 24-channel pipettes designed to fit the 384-well microplate format are an alternative solution for scientists looking to increase their throughput. Compared to 8 or 12-channel pipettes, especially the electronic versions of 16 or 24-channel pipettes save pipetting time and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries (RSIs).

Reducing the number of arm movements help minimize the risk of RSI

RSI can occur if the same physical movement, such as pipetting, is repeated over a long period of time. Depending on the instrument used, when filling 384 well plates with liquid, the arm must be moved repeatedly, in the worst case up to 384 times, between the liquid container and the plate itself. By tackling entire columns or rows of a 384-well plate in a single step, 16- and 24- channel pipettes can help reduce the risk of RSI for researchers processing a large number of plates in parallel. The best result you can achieve is by using electronic 24-channel pipettes in the dispensing mode.
Figure 1: Number of arm movements between liquid reservoir and 384-well plate needed to fill a 384-well plate according to the instrument used
How you can improve the ergonomic conditions in your lab:
  • Using multichannel pipettes instead of single-channel pipettes - if available 16 or 24-channel pipettes
    a. For instance, arm movement can be reduced from 48 movements with an 8-channel pipette to 16 movements with a 24-channel pipette (=> reduces arm movement by 67%)
  • The use of multichannel electronic pipettes in dispensing mode further reduces arm movement significantly, as shown in Figure 1.
  • The use of electronic 24-channel pipettes in dispensing mode represents the ultimate solution as only between 1 and 16 arm movements are needed, depending on the volume used.
    a. For instance, when dispensing a volume of 25 µL with a 100 µL tip, 4 arm movements are needed per plate, saving additional 75% compared to 16 movements with mechanical 24-channel pipettes
    b. Thus, compared to mechanical 8-channel pipettes you can save 92% of arm movements with electronic 24-channel pipette in dispensing mode

In summary, a higher number of channels has a direct impact on the number of movements required to dispense liquids into plates. With a 16 or 24-channel pipette, the number of movements is decreased, especially with electronic models used in dispensing mode, reducing significantly the risk of repetitive strain injury appearance.