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Science Technology

Plasma-Filled Bags Could Replace the Petri Dish 43

Zothecula writes "The humble Petri dish may soon be a thing of the past. A team of researchers in Germany have developed a new technique for treating plastic bags with plasma to turn them into sealed, sterile containers suitable for microbiology work with much less chance of contamination than traditional containers. This holds the promise of not only decreasing the possibility of contamination in stem cell and live-cell therapy techniques, but also the potential for cultivating whole human organs for transplant surgery."
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Plasma-Filled Bags Could Replace the Petri Dish

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  • To quote the eminent Ren Höek, "bloated sack of protoplasm."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A bag. It's an awesome idea because we live in a world without sharp objects or smart sounding/looking stupid people.

  • by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Monday November 14, 2011 @12:14PM (#38049042) Journal
    I don't know about plasma, but gas-filled for sure.
  • plasma or plasma (Score:5, Informative)

    by smoothnorman ( 1670542 ) on Monday November 14, 2011 @12:21PM (#38049120)
    Perhaps someone else wondered (given that this is an article about microbiology) if the "plasmas" in the summary is of the 'blood plasma' sort or rather the ionized gas sort. You may save yourself a click: it's the latter; and its function is mostly to sterilize to sample space. Now as to the ease of subsequent sterile access to the bag, versus a dish with a lid, i leave that to the imagination of the gloved and harried lab tech.

    ( plasma 1712, "form, shape" (earlier plasm, 1620), from L.L. plasma, from Gk. plasma "something molded or created," from plassein "to mold," originally "to spread thin," from PIE *plath-yein, from base *pele- "flat, to spread" (see plane (1)). Sense of "liquid part of blood" is from 1845; that of "ionized gas" is 1928)

    • Highly unlikely, BUT... It could also be referring to the mother of some guy who is named "Pla"

      Pla's Ma

    • by pz ( 113803 ) on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:00PM (#38049552) Journal

      Yes, another rather face-planting editorial failure. The summary should have been made clear that it was talking about electrically charged gas as a sterilization agent, since growth media derived from bovine blood plasma is standard stuff for filling petri dishes.

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      Yeah, I was just wondering: so we have a sterile bag that promotes cell growth (of certain cells, at least). Now, how does that fix contamination of the thing you're going to culture? That's not to be trivially dismissed, I'd imagine that contamination of the "seed" material is just as big of an issue as the contamination of the growth medium.

  • HeLa (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Monday November 14, 2011 @12:33PM (#38049264) Homepage

    Contamination has been a huge issue in human cell research. A line called HeLa contaminated [] a large number of experiments, meaning that basically all the research on human cells in vitro from an entire era was called into doubt. The story of the HeLa line is remarkable; they are immortal cancer cells from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. The cells weren't just contaminants; they played a major positive role in a lot of science. Lacks was never asked her permission, and her family never knew for decades afterward that her cells had made such a contribution to medicine.

    • Re:HeLa (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mortiss ( 812218 ) on Monday November 14, 2011 @12:45PM (#38049402)
      Not to mention, she can be regarded as a first truly genetically immortal human being in a sense of her cells (or whatever is left of her original DNA given that these cells have been passaged so many times). Someone here has once mentioned her mass if they put together all cells from all the labs in the world. I recall it was ranging into tonnes..
    • Lacks was never asked her permission, and her family never knew for decades afterward that her cells had made such a contribution to medicine.

      They should sue for blatant IP theft, MAFIAA style, say $1 million for every copied cell.

  • Not that new (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Monday November 14, 2011 @12:34PM (#38049272)

    The ways in which one atmosphere plasmas modify material properties, such as with this plastic bag, aren't new at all. My college professor in a graduate course on nuclear fusion (an elective while I was an undergrad) discussed them more than a decade ago. The only thing I see that is remotely new is creating the plasma after the bag is sealed, rather than creating the plasma externally and then piping it into the bag.

    Unfortunately the technology got all tangled up with the government, and then a number of people (including my former professor) were arrested for sharing "secrets" about this technology with "foreign nationals". So of course now all the public scientific advances in this field have to come from some other country. []

    • That's a really interesting story and probably not uncommon. I'm sure everyone has their horror stories about the startup that was born in an academic institution. It's such a problem and the university technology licensing / outreach administrators who are tasked with fixing it are complete dimwits.

  • by TheClockworkSoul ( 1635769 ) on Monday November 14, 2011 @12:53PM (#38049468) Homepage

    This seems more like marketing hyperbole than anything else. They're just sterile bags (though the pictures of the plasma sterilization are kind of cool). You don't need plasma to sterile a bag: if we really wanted to use bags for tissue culture, we would have had them 30 years ago.

    As a graduate student in the field, I can tell you that the humble petri dish has FAR too may uses, and is far too easy to use, to ever be replaced by something as awkward as a bag for pretty much anything. I suppose that the bags could perhaps be used for some function that's currently being served by the (also enclosed and sterile) flasks [] that we usually use for tissue culture tissue culture [], but bags are harder to stack in an incubator, where space can often be in short supply.

    Whiz-bang hyperbole aside, plasma-sterilized bags will probably find a niche use in which it would be handy to culture in a container that can be easily cut away, tissue engineering comes to mind, but to assert that petri dishes are going the way of the dodo is patently absurd.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      to assert that petri dishes are going the way of the dodo is patently absurd.

      Especially as these bags have been specifically designed for tissue culture. The article briefly mentions bacteria and then totally disregards the role petri dishes have in bacterial and other culture.

      You cannot pour agar into one of these bags, and even if you try injecting it with a needle like they suggest, you can't streak bacterial cultures to single colonies or spread plate cultures, place antibiotic strips onto the surface, isolate colonies from the surface of it, blot it, look at it under a microsc

    • I would also like to add that this is really designed for animal cells. Plant cells want a more solid environment.

    • Agreed. This is the classic example of solving a problem that doesn't exist. Want to limit contamination of flasks during growth? How about a filtered cap on the flask, or a HEPA filter in the incubator, or antibiotics in the media...oh wait, we already do that.
  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:04PM (#38049594)

    "Your nasty bathroom's a plasma-filled bag" just doesn't roll off the tongue like "Your nasty bathroom's a petri dish".

  • by bolthole ( 122186 ) on Monday November 14, 2011 @01:34PM (#38049924) Journal

    Congratulations, scientists.
    After thousands of years to hone your skills, you have achieved the ultimate pinnacle of biological knowlege:

    Turns out, a uterus is a good idea for growing organic things.

    In another thousand years, they might come up with an equally brilliant invention: a "post-uteral sustanance device, with intuitive interface"
    They could call it a Biogrowth-Optimized Organic Bladdersack

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