BackgroundHypoxia-based cell culture experiments are routine and essential components of in vitro cancer research. Most laboratories use low-cost portable modular chambers to achieve hypoxic conditions for cell cultures, where the sealed chambers are purged with a gas mixture of preset O2 concentration. Studies are conducted under the assumption that hypoxia remains unaltered throughout the 48 to 72 hour duration of such experiments. Since these chambers lack any sensor or detection system to monitor gas-phase O2, the cell-based data tend to be non-uniform due to the ad hoc nature of the experimental setup.
MethodologyWith the availability of low-cost open-source microcontroller-based electronic project kits, it is now possible for researchers to program these with easy-to-use software, link them to sensors, and place them in basic scientific apparatus to monitor and record experimental parameters. We report here the design and construction of a small-footprint kit for continuous measurement and recording of O2 concentration in modular hypoxia chambers. The low-cost assembly (US$135) consists of an Arduino-based microcontroller, data-logging freeware, and a factory pre-calibrated miniature O2 sensor. A small, intuitive software program was written by the authors to control the data input and output. The basic nature of the kit will enable any student in biology with minimal experience in hobby-electronics to assemble the system and edit the program parameters to suit individual experimental conditions.
Results/conclusionsWe show the kit's utility and stability of data output via a series of hypoxia experiments. The studies also demonstrated the critical need to monitor and adjust gas-phase O2 concentration during hypoxia-based experiments to prevent experimental errors or failure due to partial loss of hypoxia. Thus, incorporating the sensor-microcontroller module to a portable hypoxia chamber provides a researcher a capability that was previously available only to labs with access to sophisticated (and expensive) cell culture incubators.
SUBMITTER: Mathupala SP