The MicroStar Micromanipulator: New, Small & Slimline

The MicroStar Micromanipulator: New, Small & Slimline

What's the background to this new release?

Here at Scientifica the PatchStar micromanipulator has been hugely popular in labs all around the world where it is operated for single patch studies, in pairs, and even in quads, or as components in Slicescope Pro motorised microscopy systems. Similar engineering excellence has since been applied to specialist in-vivo manipulators; the single or three axis IVMs.

Advances in neuroscience research, particularly in the area of synaptic networks, have led to a demand for equipment enabling more patches to be made simultaneously, helping researchers to understand the interaction between cells as well as across single membranes. Paired recordings are hampered by the sparse connectivity of the brain. Research employing triplet, quadruplet, pentuplet or even more simultaneous whole-cell recordings has led to faster data of higher statistical order.

Having micromanipulators that are stable, emit low electronic noise and have smooth movement is paramount to this work, but with the access space around a sample constrained, a small footprint and slim profile is also becoming more of a priority to researchers. This is where the Scientifica MicroStar becomes a first class option.

So what's the maximum of recording electrodes that could be arranged around a sample?

he MicroStar needs a mounting area with a diameter of just 68 mm and has a width of 33 mm. This means that up to 8 can be arranged around the sample plate on our MMTP or SlicePlatform, and is even easier to arrange around our slim SliceScope microscope. This number makes the product entirely future proof as research develops, but also offers very real benefits to those who would value being able to patch in 3, 4 or 5 sites simultaniously.

Since the number of possible connected pairs of neurons scales as n*(n-1), where n is the number of electrodes, the yield of actual connected cells scales very favourably with the number of electrodes.

Do the small dimensions dictate smaller travel distances?

Not significantly. In X and Z axes, the MicroStar matches the PatchStar's travel distance of 20 mm. We're also particularly proud of the 14 mm of travel retained in the Y axis despite the narrow profile.

Won't this many manipulators be challenging to control?

There's no doubt that having this amount of equipment in close proximity will present challenges to even the most patient and experienced researcher!

However, the way in which these micromanipulators multiplex into the tried and tested Scientifica control system will mean that far less space will be taken up with control hardware, as this can be shared between multiple manipulators. This also makes them far simpler and more intuitive to use, as the user can switch between control of manipulators from single consoles. They are fully compatible with the entire range of Scientifica motorised equipment, so you'll be able to use the control systems that you've grown accustomed to if you already operate Scientifica equipment.

The unique 'Follow' function within the Linlab software will also come into its own during this kind of work. This allows the user to virtually 'link' manipulators to the X and Y movement and Z-axis focus of a roaming microscope. Individual manipulators can then be 'disengaged' at points of interest for patching to take place; these locations can be stored and then returned to at the push of a button. This eliminates the time-consuming problem of 'losing' manipulators outside the field of view

So which should I be interested in; MicroStar or PatchStar micromanipulators?

Like a lot of the questions, the only short answer is 'it depends'.

We expect the PatchStar to continue to be a very popular choice and the MicroStar is in no way a replacement for it. We'll continue to recommend the PatchStar to customers who are unlikely to branch into areas of study where more than two sites of interest would be patched at any one time.

For researchers looking to investigate more sites and the intricate connectivity within networks, we're confident that the MicroStar will emulate the success we've had with the PatchStar. With all its features geared towards working in tight spaces, the MicroStar is convenient, efficient and future-proof.

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