When a cell-culture laboratory needs a new incubator, making the right decision impacts a lab’s productivity for years. “Many incubator models can last five to seven years, therefore end-users—especially academics—aren’t necessarily buying new ones every year,” says Deepak M. Mistry, manager, strategic development & marketing at the biomedical solutions division of Sanyo North America. That means that many labs look for cell-culture incubators that solve their current needs and, hopefully, future ones too.

High performance is also required, according to Douglas Wernerspach, global product manager, CO2 incubation, at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “Recognizing the importance of the CO2 incubator to their work,” Wernerspach says, “researchers are increasingly focused on maximizing results from their incubators.”

Thermo Heracell i
The Heracell i incubators use a touch-screen control panel that give researchers more information and also simplifies operation. (Source: Thermo Fisher Scientific)

Good Practices
Mistry points out that even academic researchers get involved in projects that require validating procedures under good manufacturing practice (GMP) or Good Laboratory Practice (GLP). Sanyo’s Sterisonic GxP Cell Culture CO2 Incubator, for example, provides these capabilities. A proprietary single-beam, dual-detector IR sensor tracks the CO2 level in this incubator. “This helps this system respond to frequent door openings with the environment changing quite a bit,” says Mistry. “It can recalibrate very quickly.”

This incubator also helps researchers run fast, two-hour decontamination procedures between processes. “Cell-line researchers often swap out cells quickly, and they may be working with sensitive cell lines,” says Mistry. In the Sterisonic GxP, hydrogen peroxide vapor (H2O2)—rather than the traditional heat—provides decontamination. After just seven minutes of an H2O2 fog and then narrow-band UV light, this incubator is ready for another process—all in about two hours.

“Beyond maintaining a consistent environment,” says Mistry, “it’s just as important to be proactive about contamination.” To help with that approach, Sanyo uses copper-enriched stainless steel in constructing the Sterisonic GxP.

Adding Intelligence
Thermo Fisher Scientific recently introduced its Thermo Scientific Heracell i line designed for ease of use. In describing this line, Wernerspach says, “It provides customers with greater information about the culturing process and simplified operation.” For example, the Heracell i incubators include a touch-screen control panel.

These incubators also provide what Wernerspach describes as “short-term data logging capability directly on the display.” He adds, “You can access a performance graph on the screen or you can conveniently download it as an Excel spreadsheet.” This feature proves especially useful for those interested in data collection.

NuAire Autoflow 5510
The Autoflow 5510 CO2 incubator includes dual contamination cycles: 95º C wet and 145º C dry. (Source: NuAire)

In addition, Thermo Scientific CO2 incubators are available with contamination prevention technology including high-temperature decontamination cycles, in-chamber HEPA air filtration, and 100% pure antimicrobial copper surfaces. “A number of studies show that the antimicrobial capabilities of copper reduce, for example, MRSA [methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus] and a broad spectrum of potential contaminants,” Wernerspach says. This creates an increasing demand for this capability. “Even the ancient Greeks and Egyptians recognized these proven properties and used copper as a sterilizing agent for water and to treat wounds.”

Going with Less Flow
When asked about the biggest advances in incubators from NuAire, Buckner Richerson, vice president of international sales, says that it’s the “implementation of a closed loop HEPA filtration system that provides continuous class 100 clean air conditions inside the inner incubator chamber.” To meet the standards for class 100 air, one cubic foot of air can never contain more than 100 particles that are 0.5 microns or larger. According to Richerson, “This exclusive NuAire system guarantees the elimination of any airborne contaminant before it has a chance to contaminate cell-culture work.” This filtration system also reduces drying. As explained by Richerson: “It slows airflow to one air exchange per 30 minutes within the inner chamber, which minimizes evaporation, or desiccation, of the cell samples.”

For now, this HEPA system from NuAire is included on its NuAire Water Jacket (WJ) models, and Richerson says that it “will become standard on all Direct Heat (DH) Models shortly.” He adds that copper shelves and inner chamber are “soon to become a standard option for WJ and DH models” and that “145º C sterilization is a standard feature on DH model NU-5510.”

To keep cell-culture research moving, incubators must continue to add features. As a result, cells enjoy a consistent environment.