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Selecting a High Capacity Cell Disrupter

To date there are six High Throughput Bead Mill Cell Disrupters on the market capable of high energy shaking of 96-well microplates: The MiniBeadbeater-96, the 2025 Geno/Grinder, the Talboys Homogenizer, the Retsch MM 301, the FastPrep-96, and the Bead Rupter-96

A earlier alternative, a commercial paint shaker, proved to be unacceptable for most applications. The shaking motion of paint shaker rotates or resonates about a central axis, thus giving non-homogeneous cell disruption across the microplate platform.

When 'shopping' for a commercial High Throughput Cell Disrupter there are several important features to consider. Sample capacity and price are obvious and important considerations, but one should also look at vial orientation during shaking (for example, vials with the axis oriented close to horizontal and the shaking action in the same direction are disrupted more efficiently than vials held in an upright position and shaken in an up/down motion). Both high shaking speeds (2000 +/- 200 oscillations/min) and adequate shaking distances or 'throw' (1.0 +/- 0.25 inch) are also important. Compromise on either of the later two properties in the vial shaker and it can take up to 10X longer to get good cell disruption.  Put another way, there are several variables that account for 'efficient' cell disruption.  If you are harvesting expressed proteins, for example, you need close to 100% cell disruption.  If you want nucleic acids for PCR amplification, perhaps a partial disruption of cells is acceptable.  Some manufacturers claim disruption times of less than 30 seconds.  That's fine for PCR work, but not for blotting or protein expression analysis.

Perhaps the most important consideration is the high shaking energy required to shake a load of vials or microplates.  It takes a big motor to get the job done and some machine designs are compromised by choosing to use a smaller motor which heats up quickly.  Consequently, their protocols impose limited beadbeating times (60 secs or less) and required cool-down periods of 1-5 minutes between runs.

Look for an efficient, easy-to-use plate or vial clamping mechanism. Microplates should be clamped into a holder designed to press the entire surface area of the mat or membrane to the surface of the microplate.

Finally, efficient cell disruption almost always requires using the highest available shaking speed (see above).  Speeds below the maximum are rarely used.and thus, speed control on a beadbeater is somewhat of a 'bell and whistle' feature.

Bottom line: The MBB-96 is a powerful, faster acting bead mill cell disrupter, and sells at a attractively lower price. Sample capacity is equal to or exceeds competitive machines. Furthermore, BioSpec Products, the company who first introduced the 'beadbeating' technique for cell disruption into the laboratory over thirty years ago, is a quality source for technical expertise and prompt service.

Comments from a Researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Lab*:

  • 'We have now tested the MiniBeadBeater-96 with two different sets of samples, with more than 100 samples processed. It seems to perform comparably with the single channel units we have from BioSpec, which is a very pleasant surprise. We are able to isolate DNA from purified Bacillus spores, which have proved to be too difficult for all of the other commercially available, multi-channel instruments we have tried.'
    *Not to be taken as an endorsement by LLNL or its affiliates.
  • .....from Ontario Veterinary College:
    'We received your MiniBeadbeater and put it to use immediately. It is just as advertised, easy to use, and our tissue homogenization and resultant RNA isolation has improved drastically!!
  • .....from Steve @emu.edu:
    I'm shopping around for a bead-beater kind of homogenizer, and the MiniBeadbeater-16 looks great, price-wise anyway, compared to the Fastprep and other similar bead mill products.  How does it compare to the other $7000-$10000 High Throughput bead beaters on the market and why is BioSpec's price so much cheaper? 

Answer: BioSpec was the first company to introduce small scale bead milling back in 1979.  Our business success centers on producing reliable, and often novel, scientific equipment and setting a reasonable price.  BioSpec keeps prices down in two ways:

1.  We occasionally design and build equipment around a proven, low cost, mass-marketed tool or appliance (example: The 'TissueTearor' homogenizer uses a Dremel-tool™ motor, the 'Beadbeater' uses a commercial grade Hamilton-Beach™ blender motor and the 'SoniBeast' uses the motor of a Multipurpose Oscillating Tool).  This  money-saving strategy is passed on to the customer.

2.  We advertise modestly.  We rely mostly on 'word-of-mouth' and scientific literature references for product promotion. We are conservative with other forms of costly marketing, including print- and internet advertising, distributor discounts, representative commissions, trade shows, and product demonstrations.  For companies who have another business model for promotion, up to 50% of the list price of a lab tool will be bugeted to cover their marketing costs!