Uses of Laboratory Incubators
An incubator is equipment used in modern research laboratories for maintaining and regulating viable growth factors such as temperature, humidity and ventilation so that microbiological cultures can grow. Incubators are available in the market in varying sizes catering to different requirements- from tabletop to small room size. Some high-end incubators also have the capability to lower temperature (microbiological incubator) and control humidity or CO2 levels (CO2 incubator or cell culture incubator). The non-gassed incubator (microbiological) focuses mainly on the growth and storage of bacterial cultures and control temperature ranging from 5C to 70C. However, the gassed incubator (CO2 incubator) is generally used for cell cultures and provides a stable environment by maintaining temperature (37 C), relative humidity (95%) and CO2 for proper pH standards.
Uses of laboratory incubators
Laboratory incubators are widely involved in a number of applications such as cell and tissue culture, pharmaceutical studies, hematological studies, biochemical studies, food processing, cell aeration, plant and animal studies, solubility studies, fermentation studies and bacterial culturing.
For years, the controlled stable environment of the incubator was used for hatching poultry eggs and taking care of premature or sick babies. Today, incubators have more elaborative use and its market is thriving as a result of new applications. Scientists use incubators for medical treatments, stem cell research and experimental procedures like incubating antibodies on tissues and cells for fluorescence microscopy. They can also be used to diagnose the disease-causing pathogens in the human body. With the balanced and careful use of air around the cell culture, the microorganism multiplies and increases the probability of identifying the pathogen.
Incubators are now extensively used to study tissue cultures, that involves extracting tissue fragments from animals or plants, keeping these explants (isolation of cells from a piece or pieces of tissue) in an incubator and subsequently analyzing their growth. Study of these explants enables clinicians and scientists to understand the functioning of specific cells like cancer cells and help them in developing vaccines for diseases such as polio, mumps and measles. Also, these tissue cultures have helped scientists to detect various disorders resulting from the absence of certain enzymes.
New avenues have opened with the use of incubators in genetic engineering. Scientists have been able to use the explants from the tissue culture to manipulate their genetic material. It has also allowed them to form new organisms by combining DNAs from different sources. Genetic engineering has helped enhance the nutritional value of various fruits and vegetables and has also worked in increasing the disease-resistance level of many crops.