Cutting Cellular Study Time in Half

Two North Dakota State graduate students recently developed a product that could cut the time it takes to study cells. Hanaa Mansour and Matthew Crouse, both studying animal science, have made a product for studying cells that will help in their research and the research of others.

Mansour works with placenta cell biopsies in the research she does on pregnant animals. When asked what led her to create this product, Mansour responded, “I would like to make a difference and improve the number of live cells.” She started to plan this invention in October 2015 when she noticed how long it took to study placenta cells. And not just with the amount of time spent, but also with how much of a toll it is on the body.

“The improved quality of cells leads to the improved quality of research in the lab, which leads to improved outcomes for others to see.” – Matthew Crouse, NDSU graduate student

Having to go back and forth to get another flask and hold it at a 45-degree angle was painful and a waste of time, according to Mansour. She started to create this product with a small cardboard box that she cut holes in for the flasks and tubes. This helped her save valuable time in the lab, but she realized that she couldn’t wash it because it was made out of cardboard.

Mansour then set out to make a product similar to her cardboard invention, but something that was sturdier and could be cleaned. She went to the engineering department at NDSU where she was helped with the design.

From there, Mansour got to work with high school students who were planning on majoring in engineering. They helped create the prototype of her machine that would turn into a 3D-printed flask holder. In the long run, this invention has helped keep cells alive while saving time in the lab. Around two to three hours in the lab are saved because of her invention, which means more results in less time.

Crouse and Mansour have known each other for a while, but they started to work together on the project in January 2018. Crouse helped to market the invention, and together they were able to present it in NDSU’s Innovation Challenge, where they got to explain how it worked and its effects to a wide range of people.

When asked what the greatest outcome of this product is, Crouse answered, “The improved quality of cells leads to the improved quality of research in the lab, which leads to improved outcomes for others to see.” Mansour is in the process of getting a patent for the invention. It’s going to take one to two years in order for the patent to go through and for others to be able to buy their product.

Now, they both have separate paths as they research different things. Mansour studies how binuclear cells produce hormones and how they help with pregnancy, while Crouse is studying how certain vitamins help with reproductive success. Though Crouse is not using the 3D-printed flask holder for his current research, Mansour still uses and benefits from it.

Though there are similar products out there, they all range from $68 to $88, which times 1o for each tube is up to $880 for a lab. The competitors are unaffordable, and they only hold a specifically sized tube. Mansour’s can be pulled apart and fits together like a puzzle. This means that depending on how many tubes and flasks there are, the device can be adjusted to make it work, all the way up to 10 flasks and 10 tubes.

Mansour said she wants to find a way to scale down the size of her invention so then different sizes of tissue (like fetal tissue) can be examined. This invention will still benefit her and soon many more in the science department.

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