Some may be surprised to know that a modern-day medical laboratory looks much different from how they imagine. The word “laboratory” might bring to mind almost cartoonish renderings of workers in white coats manually transferring liquids from test tube to test tube, or microorganisms growing wild in petri dishes. But a Medical laboratories are typically a highly organized and efficient place. The laboratory work that is hidden from the public view constitutes processes like testing on clinical specimens, handling samples, and sorting out panic values.It may also be compartmentalized by specialty. For example, pathology work is further divided into specialty areas like anatomic pathology and clinical pathology.
Medical laboratories in this day and age also benefit from some of the most state-of-the-art technologies. What are some of the implements used inside the lab that ensure accurate, efficient, and ultimately life-saving work? Here’s our short list.
Microscopy entails magnifying objects that cannot be seen within the resolution range of the human eye. The microscope is one of the foremost tools used in the medical lab, and most labs have made the shift from human-operated microscopes to automated digital microscopes. Linear stages in microscopes help position samples precisely and accurately across the XY planes. These are some of the mechanisms that help lab workers obtain critical focus, high range of resolution, and repeatability for the process.
Another set of implements widely used in medical laboratories is that of automated analyzers. Automated analyzers can perform analysis of chemicals and other characteristics in biological samples in a short amount of time, with minimal human intervention. Some automated analyzers work with closed-tube samples, if prolonged direct exposure to the samples endangers those who work in the lab.
Instruments for Chromatography
Chromatography is the process of separating mixtures of chemical substances into their individual components, or solutes. There are two phases to chromatography: the mobile phase, when the solute is distributed between a moving stream, and the stationary phase, where the solute becomes either a solid or a liquid. The process of separating components for later use in other substances is key in the work of a medical lab. The lab may employ specific machines for paper chromatography, planar chromatography, thin layer chromatography, ion exchange chromatography, and the like.
The different types of pipettes, such as the Pasteur pipettes (eyedroppers) and graduated pipettes, are used to accurately dispense measured amounts of liquid from one receptacle to the next. This is another lab process that has benefited from automation technology: automated pipetting ensures greater mechanical precision and accuracy in handling disparate amounts of liquid, at the high pace that the medical lab demands.
Burettes, or burets, are used to accurately measure and dispense variable amounts of a chemical solution at the same time. A burette consists of a long graduated glass tube and a stopcock valve, which controls the flow of liquid down to the tube’s tip. Modern technology has introduced the motorized burette to the medical lab, in which the data from a titration process can be recorded digitally.
Colorimeters are the instruments used in colorimetry or the chemical method of measuring the concentration of a solution based on its absorbance of a specific wavelength of light. In the context of medical laboratory work, a colorimeter can be employed for blood analysis, specifically the photochemical analysis and quantitative estimation of blood sugar, creatinine, and hemoglobin.
One thing is for Certain – life-saving discoveries are made in a medical laboratory with these tools. In the setting of the medical laboratory, doctors, life scientists, clinical laboratory technicians, and engineers combine their human expertise with supplementing technologies, all for the purpose of furthering the field of medicine.