(19)
(11)EP 3 263 694 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 17161277.3

(22)Date of filing:  16.03.2017
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
C12M 3/00(2006.01)
C12M 1/00(2006.01)
C12M 1/36(2006.01)

(54)

AN APPARATUS FOR THE COMBINED INCUBATION AND VITRIFICATION OF A BIOLOGICAL MATERIAL

VORRICHTUNG ZUR KOMBINIERTEN INKUBATION UND VITRIFIZIERUNG EINES BIOLOGISCHEN MATERIALS

APPAREIL D'INCUBATION ET DE VITRIFICATION COMBINÉES D'UN MATÉRIAU BIOLOGIQUE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 01.07.2016 DK 201600392

(43)Date of publication of application:
03.01.2018 Bulletin 2018/01

(73)Proprietor: Esco Medical UAB
51230 Kaunas (LT)

(72)Inventor:
  • PEDERSEN, Thomas William
    8660 Skanderborg (DK)

(74)Representative: Skov, Anders et al
Otello Law Firm Dalgasgade 25, 8th floor
7400 Herning
7400 Herning (DK)


(56)References cited: : 
WO-A1-2014/106286
US-A1- 2013 210 130
WO-A1-2015/001396
  
  • Anonymous: "Innovating fertility technology", Genea Biomedx, product website, 1 January 2015 (2015-01-01), XP055410345, Retrieved from the Internet: URL:https://www.geneabiomedx.com/GeneaBioM edx/media/GeneaBioMedx/Brand/Genea-Biomedx -Brochure.pdf [retrieved on 2017-09-26]
  • Anonymous: "EmbryoScope time-lapse incubator - Vitrolife", Vitrolife AB, product website, 1 January 2015 (2015-01-01), XP055410335, Retrieved from the Internet: URL:http://www.vitrolife.com/Products/Embr yoScope-Time-Lapse-System/EmbryoScope-Time -Lapse-System/ [retrieved on 2017-09-26]
  • ESCO MEDICAL: "Fertility/IVF Product Catalogue 2013-2014", ESCO MEDICAL website, July 2013 (2013-07), pages 1-14, XP002722518, Retrieved from the Internet: URL:http://www.escoglobal.com/images/uploa d/EnglishProductGuide.pdf [retrieved on 2014-03-31]
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

Field of the invention



[0001] The present invention relates to the field of in vitro fertilization. More specifically the present invention relates to an apparatus for the combined incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material.

Background of the invention



[0002] The development of in vitro fertiliazation (IVF) has for the last few decades resulted in considerably improved methods and techniques thus leading to improved success rates in terms of enhanced birth rates relating to successful births originating from such techniques. In vitro fertilization involves capturing a ripened egg from a female ovary, fertilizing the ovary with a spermatozoon, incubating the fertilized egg under a controlled environment and subsequently inserting the fertilized and incubated egg in the female's uterus.

[0003] As in vitro fertilization is most commonly used by females or couples which notoriously are having problems in getting pregnant the natural way, thus implying some degree of reduced fertility by the male or female counterpart of the couple, or both, and as in vitro fertilization techniques involves quite expensive procedures these in vitro fertilization techniques are usually performed in a way that seek to optimize efficiency, especially in view of the fact that frequently more than one insertion of a fertilized egg into the female' uterus will be necessary in order to encounter a successful pregnancy.

[0004] Accordingly, in order to make the in vitro fertilization techniques efficient, the female is typically provided with a hormone treatment prior to harvesting an egg from her ovary.

[0005] Such hormone treatment will make the female ovary ovulate not only one egg, but a multitude of eggs at the same time.

[0006] These eggs are then either fertilized and incubated immediately, or alternatively they are preserved at cryogenic conditions with the view to be used in an in vitro fertilization at a later stage. Due to the hormone treatment, a certain amount of time has to lapse however, before the female body is ready to receive the fertilized egg.

[0007] Techniques involving cryogenic preservation of an egg per se, as well as a fertilized egg have been developed.

[0008] In the cryogenic preservation of a biological sample, such as an egg or a fertilized egg one faces the challenges of avoiding mechanical damages to the biological samples due to formation of crystals within the biological sample, which formation of crystals may physically destroys the organelles responsible for the metabolism within the biological sample.

[0009] In order to avoid such formation of crystals within a biological sample, a technique called vitrification has been invented. Vitrification accordingly involves preparing a viable biological material in such a way that it may be freezed in a way where formation of crystals upon freezing is not taking place, or at least takes place to a limited extension.

[0010] Vitrification may involve treating the biological sample with one or more "vitrification liquids", also denoted "cryoprotectants". Osmosis may be involved so that water is being drained from the biological sample prior to the freezing step.

[0011] Apparatuses for vitrification of fertilized an unfertilized eggs have been developed. WO 2014/106286 A1 discloses an apparatus and a method for vitrification of a biological sample, such as an oocyte or an embryo. The apparatus comprises a compartment for accommodating a tray comprising one or more separated biological samples. The tray comprises a number of pods each comprising a biological sample. The tray also comprises a number of vials each comprising a vitrification liquid. Automation means provides for automated movement of pipettes with the view to prepare the biological samples for cryogenic storage by adding and removing vitrification liquids to and from the pods containing the vitrification liquid.

[0012] The addition and removing of vitrification liquids to and from the biological samples is performed according to predetermined procedures and protocols.

[0013] After the subjection the biological sample to the various vitrification liquids, the pod containing the biological sample is automatically sealed by automatically arranging a lid onto the pod, thus sealing off the biological sample from the surroundings. Subsequently, the pod containing one or more separated biological samples are manually submerged in liquid nitrogen contained in a vessel which is an integral, yet separable item of the apparatus.

[0014] The apparatus disclosed in WO 2014/106286 A1 does not comprise electronic image capturing means for monitoring the biological material. Furthermore, the apparatus disclosed in WO 2014/106286 A1 is not suitable for monitoring and controlling the development of a viable biological material during the incubation per se thereof.

[0015] As indicated in the previous sections both oozytes and fertilized eggs, e.g. embryos may be subjected to vitrification. In case of fertilized eggs, before vitrification of a zygote the egg is fertilized. Such fertilization and subsequent incubation of the resulting zygote is being performed in a incubator. On the marked a number of different incubators are available. Some of these allow for controlling the environment of the incubated biological material, such as controlling the temperature and the composition of the air surrounding the biological material. Other types of incubators include image capturing means for monitoring the biological material. Some of these comprise time lapse techniques allowing monitoring of the biological material in order to determine a cell division stage which will be optimum in relation to finding the right time to insert the fertilized egg into the uterus of a female.

[0016] However, none of these incubators include means for performing a vitrification of the biological material.

[0017] None of the prior art apparatuses for vitrification of a biological material provides for a fully automatic vitrification process, including a fully automatic preparational step and/or a subsequent cryogenic processing of the biological material.

[0018] Thirdly, none of the prior art apparatuses for vitrification of a biological material provides for image capturing of the vitrification process.

Brief description of the invention



[0019] It is the objective of the present invention to provide apparatuses which overcome these disadvantages.

[0020] This objective is fulfilled with the present invention in its various aspects.

[0021] Accordingly, the present invention relates to an apparatus 100 for the combined incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material;
said apparatus comprises:
a housing having an extension in a longitudinal direction and an extension in a transversal direction; said housing comprising:

two or more individual culture dish compartments, each being adapted to accommodate one or more culture dishes comprising a biological material, each said culture dish comprises one or more culture wells for accommodating said biological material;

wherein said apparatus comprises one or more image capturing devices adapted to capture images of one or more of said biological material accommodated in said one or more culture dishes;

wherein said apparatus comprises cryogenic means for cooling at cryogenic temperatures of a biological material, said cryogenic means being arranged in a cryogenic area at a different location relative to said two or more culture dish compartments;

wherein said two or more culture dish compartments and said cryogenic area together defines an operational area;

wherein said apparatus comprises one or more manipulation units, said one or more manipulation units each comprises one or more robotic arms, said one or more robotic arms being configured to grip and move elements and/or chemical/biological material within said operational area;

wherein said apparatus comprises movement means, said movement means being configured to move said image capturing device relative to said culture dishes;

wherein said apparatus comprises a control system for controlling the operation thereof,

wherein said control system being configured to allow a user to input predetermined operation protocol(s) to be followed by said apparatus; and wherein said control system being configured to control said apparatus according to said protocol(s);

wherein one of said one or more manipulation units (18) comprises a robotic culture dish moving arm, wherein said robotic culture dish moving arm being configured to grip a culture dish and to move it between said culture dish compartment and said cryogenic area of said apparatus.



[0022] The present invention provides for improved processing quality upon performing a combined incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material.

[0023] As the apparatus according to the present invention may be controlled fully automatically, thereby minimizing procedure variations caused by human handling and/or human interaction it is possible to use the apparatus of the invention for research purposes with the view to find optimized conditions for incubation and for vitrification of a viable biological sample, such as an embryo or an oocyte, for example a human embryo or a human oocyte.

[0024] Such optimized conditions for incubation and for vitrification may be found with the apparatus according to the present invention by running a huge number of experiments of incubations and vitrifications, in which one experiment varies from another experiment by only one parameter.

[0025] As indicated above precise experiments may be performed as the apparatus of the invention allows for minimizing unintended fluctuations in experimental conditions caused by human intervention as the apparatus may be controlled fully automatic thereby ensuring constant operational protocols from experiment to experiment.

[0026] In this way each parameter may be optimized and eventually a complete set of optimizes parameters for incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material may be obtained. Once this this is established, the apparatus according to the present invention may also be used commercially for commercial incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material, such as for example a human embryos or a human oocytes.

Brief description of the figures



[0027] 

Fig. 1 is a perspective view of the apparatus according to the present invention.

Fig. 2 illustrates in a perspective view one embodiment of a movement means to be used with the apparatus of the present invention.

Fig. 3 illustrates in a perspective view a close up of the image capturing device to be used with the apparatus of the present invention.

Fig. 4 illustrates in a perspective view one embodiment of a manipulation unit in the form of a robotic pipetting arm to be used with the apparatus of the present invention.

Fig. 5 illustrates in a perspective view one embodiment of a pipette pump to be used with the present invention.

Fig. 6 illustrates in a perspective view one embodiment a manipulation unit in the form of a robotic dish sealing arm to be used with the present invention.

Fig. 7 illustrates in a perspective view one embodiment a culture dish to be used with the apparatus of the present invention.

Fig. 8a, 8b and 8c illustrate in various views the culture dish of fig. 7.


Detailed description of the invention



[0028] The present invention relates to an apparatus for the combined incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material;
said apparatus comprises:
a housing having an extension in a longitudinal direction and an extension in a transversal direction; said housing comprising:

two or more individual culture dish compartments, each being adapted to accommodate one or more culture dishes comprising a biological material, each said culture dish comprises one or more culture wells for accommodating said biological material;

wherein said apparatus comprises one or more image capturing devices adapted to capture images of one or more of said biological material accommodated in said one or more culture dishes;

wherein said apparatus comprises cryogenic means for cooling at cryogenic temperatures of a biological material, said cryogenic means being arranged in a cryogenic area at a different location relative to said two or more culture dish compartments;

wherein said two or more culture dish compartments and said cryogenic area together defines an operational area;

wherein said apparatus comprises one or more manipulation units, said one or more manipulation units each comprises one or more robotic arms, said one or more robotic arms being configured to grip and move elements and/or chemical/biological material within said operational area;

wherein said apparatus comprises movement means, said movement means being configured to move said image capturing device relative to said culture dishes;

wherein said apparatus comprises a control system for controlling the operation thereof,

wherein said control system being configured to allow a user to input predetermined operation protocol(s) to be followed by said apparatus; and wherein said control system being configured to control said apparatus according to said protocol(s);

wherein one of said one or more manipulation units (18) comprises a robotic culture dish moving arm, wherein said robotic culture dish moving arm being configured to grip a culture dish and to move it between said culture dish compartment and said cryogenic area of said apparatus.



[0029] The apparatus of the present invention allows for automatic incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material. Thereby predetermined protocols for handling the biological matial can be performed precisely and accurately thus avoiding errors and deviations from the intended protocol, as caused by manual human intervention.

[0030] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention the apparatus comprises 3-24 individual culture dish compartments, such as 4 - 23, e.g. 5 - 22, such as 6 - 21, e.g. 7 - 20 or 8 - 19, for example 9 - 18, such as 10 - 17, for example 11 - 16, such as 12 - 15 or 13 - 14 individual culture dish compartments.

[0031] Such numbers of separate culture dish compartments allows in a research situation to conduct a number of parallel protocols wherein each protocol differs by only one parameter from one culture dish compartment to another. Thereby optimization of protocols for the combined incubation and vitrification of a specific type of viable biological material may be determined.

[0032] One or more of said individual culture dish compartments, preferable all said individual culture dish compartments may comprise an individual compartment lid. By providing individual and separate culture dish compartments with its own individual lid, it is assured that the environment of one culture dish compartment may be kept at predetermined conditions independent of the environment of the other culture dish compartments.

[0033] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention the apparatus furthermore comprises temperature regulating means for individual regulating the temperature in one or more of said individual said culture dish compartments, preferable in all said individual said culture dish compartments.

[0034] By providing individual and separate culture dish compartments with its own individual temperature regulating means for individual regulating the temperature, it is assured that the environment of one culture dish compartment may be kept at predetermined conditions independent of the environment of the other culture dish compartments.

[0035] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention the temperature regulating means comprise heating means, such as one or more electric heating elements; and/or cooling means, such as one or more Peltier elements.

[0036] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention the apparatus furthermore comprises gas composition regulating means for individual regulating the gas composition, such as the concentration of oxygen, carbon dioxide and/or nitrogen in one or more of said individual said culture dish compartments, preferable in all said individual said culture dish compartments.

[0037] By providing individual and separate culture dish compartments with its own individual gas composition regulating means for individual regulating the gas composition, it is assured that the environment of one culture dish compartment may be kept at predetermined conditions independent of the environment of the other culture dish compartments.

[0038] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention the apparatus comprises an image capturing device in respect of each individual culture dish compartment.

[0039] Providing each individual culture dish compartment with an image capturing device assures the ability of capturing images of each culture well in each culture dish being accommodated in each individual culture dish compartment.

[0040] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention said movement means are configured in such a way that said image capturing device is adapted for being moveable relative to said culture dish, thereby allowing capturing of images of each biological material accommodated in said culture dish(es).

[0041] Allowing one image capturing device to be responsible for capturing images relating to biological material being accommodated in different culture dish compartments saves production cost in the manufacture of the apparatus.

[0042] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention and in respect of one or more culture dish compartments, preferably all culture dish compartments, said culture dish compartment comprises a shelf for accommodation of a culture dish, wherein said movement means are configured in a way allowing said shelf to be moved, preferably by rotation, relative to said image capturing device, thereby allowing capturing of images of each biological material accommodated in said culture dish(es).

[0043] In this way, a single image capturing device may capture images relating to biological material being accommodated in different culture dish compartments.

[0044] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention, for example in respect of one or more culture dish compartments, preferably all culture dish compartments, said culture dish compartment comprises a pipette pump, said pipette pump being configured for pipetting fluids to and from culture well(s) of said culture dish(es).

[0045] The pipette pump allows adding and removing from one or more culture wells of the culture dishes of culture media and cryoprotectants.

[0046] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention and in respect of one or more culture dish compartments, preferably all culture dish compartments, said culture dish compartment comprises one or more pipette stands comprising one or more pipettes.

[0047] A pipette stand may act as a holder for used and/or unused pipettes, thus allowing exchange of pipettes during the operation of the apparatus with the view to avoid any contaminations of the viable biological material.

[0048] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention, and in respect of one or more culture dish compartments, preferably all culture dish compartments, said culture dish compartment comprises one more containers for storing incubation liquids and/or cryoprotectants.

[0049] Providing the culture dish compartments with such containers allows for easy access to such incubation liquids and/or cryoprotectants.

[0050] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention each said one or more containers comprise a sealing syringe end cap.

[0051] A sealed syringe end cap minimizes the risk of contamination of such incubation liquids and/or cryoprotectants, while still allowing a pipette to access the interior of such containers.

[0052] Optionally, in the apparatus, in respect of one or more of said individual culture dish compartments, preferably in respect of each individual culture dish compartment, said individual culture dish compartment comprises a transparent shelf for carrying a culture dish; and said image capturing device is arranged below said shelf and is adapted to be movable so as to enable capturing images, through said shelf, of biological material accommodated in said culture dishes.

[0053] Optionally, in the apparatus, in respect of one or more of said individual culture dish compartments, preferably in respect of each individual culture dish compartment, said individual culture dish comprises one or more transparent walls.

[0054] In such an optional configuration said image capturing device may be configured for focusing in a horizontal direction or in an essentially horizontal direction.

[0055] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention, and in respect of one or more of said individual culture dish compartments, preferably in respect of each individual culture dish compartment, said individual culture dish comprises one or more transparent walls, and said image capturing device is being configured for being movable along said one or more individual culture dish compartments at positions outside said transparent wall(s), relative to the interior of said individual culture dish compartments.

[0056] Such movement of the image capturing device may be in front of said one or more culture dish compartments, or behind said one or more culture dish compartments, while still being present within the housing of the apparatus.

[0057] These embodiments of having one or more culture dish compartments provided with transparent walls and having said image capturing device may be configured for focusing in a horizontal direction or in an essentially horizontal direction allows use of an alternative type of culture dishes. Such culture dishes may be in the form of a flat element having a top surface wherein one or more culture wells are being arranged at said top surface; and wherein these types of culture dishes are being configured to be arranged, during incubation and/or vitrification, in an upright or vertical orientation.

[0058] These various set-ups allow for easy capturing of images by the image capturing device in respect of one or more culture dish compartments.

[0059] Optionally, in the apparatus, in respect of one or more of said individual culture dish compartments, preferably in respect of each individual culture dish compartment, said individual culture dish compartment comprises one or more of the following: a pH sensor, a temperature sensor, an oxygen sensor, a carbon dioxide sensor.

[0060] Such sensors allow for monitoring the environment in the particular culture dish compartment.

[0061] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention said cryogenic means comprise a container for storing a liquid gas, such as liquid nitrogen; said container for storing of a liquid gas is separated from said one or more culture dish compartments.

[0062] Liquid gas, such as liquid nitrogen, is a readily available and cost efficient and in terms of cryogenic power represents an efficient cryogenic mean.

[0063] In the present description and in the appended claims, however, the term "cryogenic mean" shall be understood to mean a container per se for storing a liquid gas.

[0064] Optionally, said apparatus comprises input means for allowing a user to program and select one or more operation protocols to be followed by said apparatus.

[0065] Optionally, said apparatus comprises a display for displaying to an operator the status and/or progression of the operation of the apparatus.

[0066] Such input means and display allows an operator to control and monitor the operation of the apparatus.

[0067] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention said apparatus comprising an image processing unit for processing images captured by said image capturing device.

[0068] Optionally, in the apparatus, said image processing unit is configured to provide, from the images captured by said image capturing device, time-lapse image series of one or more of the individual biological materials.

[0069] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention said image capturing device comprises a microscope for capturing close-up images of said biological material.

[0070] Time lapse imaging allows one to monitor the development of a particular viable biological material with the view to assess the quality of such a material with the view to selecting a particular biological material for further processing steps.

[0071] Optionally, in the apparatus, in respect of one or more of said individual culture dish compartments, preferably in respect of each individual culture dish compartment, said individual culture dish compartment comprises lid holding means for accommodating one or more lids for said culture dish or for individual culture wells of said culture dish.

[0072] Providing the culture dish compartments with such lids allows for easy access to such lids with the view to seal individual culture dishes and/or individual culture wells of individual culture dishes prior to the cryogenic process.

[0073] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention one of said one or more manipulation units comprises a robotic dish sealing arm, wherein said robotic dish sealing arm is being configured for sealing one or more culture dishes, or for sealing a well of a culture dish, being accommodated within said culture dish compartment.

[0074] Optionally, in the apparatus, said robotic dish sealing arm is in the form of a robotic lid mounting arm configured to grip a lid from within said culture dish compartment and to move said lid and arrange said lid on top of a culture dish or of a well of a culture dish being accommodated within said culture dish compartment.

[0075] Thereby the apparatus may be configured for automatic sealing a culture dish or one or more wells of a culture dish according to a predetermined protocol. Sealing of the culture dish, or of the individual culture wells of the culture dish will be necessary prior to the cryogenic step to be performed.

[0076] In the present description and in the appended claims the term "robotic dish sealing arm" shall however be interpreted to mean a robotic arm which is configured for providing movements which will result in sealing off one or more culture wells of a culture dish, from the surroundings.

[0077] In one embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention one of said one or more manipulation units comprises a robotic pipetting arm, said robotic pipetting arm comprises a pipette and wherein said robotic pipetting arm being configured to move said pipette within said culture dish compartment, so as to allow withdrawing and/or adding liquids and/or suspensions to and/or from one or more culture wells of a culture dish being accommodated within said culture dish compartment.

[0078] Thereby the apparatus may be configured for automatic exchange of incubation liquids and/or cryoprotectants in one or more wells of a culture dish according to a predetermined protocol.

[0079] In the apparatus according to the present invention one of said one or more manipulation units comprises a robotic culture dish moving arm, wherein said robotic culture dish moving arm being configured to grip a culture dish and to move it between said culture dish compartment and said cryogenic area of said apparatus.

[0080] Thereby the apparatus is configured for automatic movement of the culture dish from a particular culture dish compartment to the cryogenic area with the view to subject that culture dish to cryogenic conditions.

[0081] The robotic culture dish moving arm and the robotic dish sealing arm, e.g. in the form of a robotic lid mounting arm, may be combined into one and the same arm.

[0082] Optionally, in the apparatus, one or more of said robotic arms independently comprises a base and wherein said robotic arm being pivotally mounted on said base in said culture dish compartment and wherein the robotic arm in the opposite end thereof comprises a working end, said working end of said robotic arm being able to be moved independently in three dimensions.

[0083] Hereby flexibility in movement of the robotic arms is ensured.

[0084] Optionally, in the apparatus, said control system for controlling the operation of said apparatus is configured to control one or more of the following: said temperature regulating means in respect of one or more of the culture dish compartments; said gas composition regulating means in respect of one or more of the culture dish compartments; said one or more of said image capturing devices; said one or more manipulation units, such as a said one or more robotic lid mounting arms, said one or more robotic pipetting arms, said one or more robotic culture dish moving arm; and/or said one or more pipette pumps.

[0085] Such control system allows for a fully automatic control of said apparatus according to predetermined protocols. This will avoid fluctuations in intended protocols caused by manual human interference and human error.

[0086] Further disclosed herein is a system for the combined incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material; said system comprises:
  • an apparatus according to the present invention in combination with
  • one or more culture dishes.


[0087] Optionally, in the system, said one or more culture dishes comprises a material comprising a number of culture wells, each representing a cavity in said material.

[0088] Optionally, in the system, the number of culture wells in each culture dish is 2 - 20, such as 4 - 18, for example 6 - 16, such as 8 - 14, for example 10 - 12.

[0089] Such numbers of culture wells allows in a research situation to conduct a number of parallel protocols wherein each protocol differs by only one parameter from one culture well to another. Thereby optimization of protocols for the combined incubation and vitrification of a specific type of viable biological material may be determined.

[0090] Optionally, in the system, at least in respect of one or more of said the culture wells, the material of the dish below each well is being transparent.

[0091] Optionally, in the system, the material of the culture dish is a polymer such as a plastic.

[0092] Providing material of the dish below each well is with transparency allows an image capturing device to be arranged below said culture dish and still be able to capture images of a biological material being accommodated in wells of said culture dish.

[0093] Optionally, in the system, and in respect of one or more of said the culture wells, the area surrounding said well is provided with a material having relative high heat conduction capacity, such as a metal.

[0094] Optionally, in the system, each culture well is arranged in close vicinity to a periphery of said dish; and wherein said dish at its bottom surface is covered with a material having relative high heat conduction capacity, such as a metal; and wherein the area of the culture wells, at a bottom surface thereof is not covered by said material having relative high heat conduction capacity.

[0095] Optionally, in the system, the culture dish comprises an essentially central oriented through-going hole, thereby having an outer periphery and an inner periphery; and wherein each culture well is arranged in close vicinity to said inner or outer periphery.

[0096] Optionally, in the system, said culture dish comprises a material having a thickness in respect of locations in vicinity to one or more of said culture wells, such as in respect of the material below to one or more of said culture wells and/or in respect of the wall of said well of 0.05 - 0.5 mm, such as 0.06 - 0.4 mm, for example 0.07 - 0.3 mm, e.g. 0.08 - 0.2 mm, for example 0.09 - 0.1 mm.

[0097] These latter four options allows for rapid cooling of the viable biological material by the cryogenic means, thereby obtaining optimum cryogenic conditions.

[0098] Optionally, in the system, said culture dish comprises a lid covering all culture wells; or comprising individual lids, each lid covering a single culture well, wherein said lid(s) is/are configured for detachable sealing off said culture wells from the surroundings.

[0099] Further disclosed herein is a culture dish as defined in respect of the above-described system.

[0100] Further disclosed herein is the use of an apparatus according to the present invention, or of a system or of a culture dish described above for incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material.

[0101] Optionally, in the above-described use, the biological material is an oocyte or an embryo.

[0102] Further disclosed herein is a method for the combined incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material, wherein said method is being performed by using an apparatus according to the present invention.

[0103] Although the apparatus according to the present invention has been described as suitable for the combined incubation and vitrification of a biological material, such as a viable biological material, this apparatus may obviously also be used for solely incubation of a biological material.

[0104] Likewise, the apparatus of the invention may also be used for solely vitrification of a biological material.

[0105] Referring now to the drawings for illustration of the present invention, fig. 1 shows an apparatus 100 for the combined incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material; The apparatus of fig. 1 comprises:
a housing 2 having an extension in a longitudinal direction X and an extension in a transversal direction Y; said housing comprising:
one culture dish compartment 4, being adapted to accommodate a culture dishes 6 comprising biological material, each said culture dish comprises one or more culture wells 8 for accommodating said biological material.

[0106] The apparatus comprises an image capturing device 10 (not seen in fig. 1) adapted to capture images of one or more of said biological material accommodated in the culture dish.

[0107] The apparatus furthermore comprises cryogenic means 12 in the form of a container for liquid nitrogen. The container is in fig. 1 hidden within the housing 2.

[0108] The culture dish compartment and said cryogenic area together defines an operational area 16.

[0109] The apparatus furthermore comprises a number of manipulation units 18. The manipulation units comprises one or more gripping arms 20, said one or more gripping arms being configured to grip and move elements and/or chemical/biological within said operational area. This is explained further in a subsequent section.

[0110] The apparatus comprises movement means 22, said movement means being configured to move said culture dish relative to said image capturing device.

[0111] The apparatus comprises a control system 24 for controlling the operation thereof, wherein said control system being configured to allow a user to input predetermined operation protocol(s) to be followed by said apparatus; and wherein said control system being configured to control said apparatus according to said protocol(s).

[0112] Fig. 2 illustrates one embodiment of a movement means to be used with the apparatus of the present invention. Fig. 2 shows the image capturing means 10 being arranged below a shelf 28, 38. The movement means is adapted to be moveable relative to the image capturing device

[0113] 10. In this embodiment, the shelf 28, 38 is designed as a carrousel onto which a culture dish may be arranged. Motor means (not shown in fig. 2) provides for rotating the shelf 28,28 thereby allowing capturing images of different biological material being accommodated in a different culture wells of a culture dish.

[0114] Fig. 3 illustrates a close up of the image capturing device 10 itself. The image capturing device preferable comprises motorized focusing and/or zooming means. Such means allow for remote and/or automatically adjustment of optical parameters during the process of capturing images.

[0115] Fig. 4 illustrates one embodiment of a manipulation unit 18. The manipulation unit is in the form of a robotic pipetting arm 58. The robotic pipetting arm is arm being configured to move said pipette within said culture dish compartment, so as to allow withdrawing and/or adding liquids and/or suspensions to and fromone or more culture wells of a culture dish being accommodated within said culture dish compartment. This is brought about by pivotally arranging the pipetting arm on a base 60 at one end and at the opposite end providing a working end 62 which by means of a motor unit 68 is being able to be moved independently in three dimensions. The working end comprises pipetting means 64 which in turn comprises a pipette 66. The pipetting means 64 operates as a holder for the pipette 66.

[0116] Fig. 5 illustrates one embodiment of a pipette pump 32 to be used with the present invention. The pipette pump 32 comprises a stand 70 comprising a first bracket 72 and a second bracket 74. The first bracket and the second bracket are designed for accommodating a standard disposable plastic syringe76 having a cylinder part 78 and a piston part 80, in such a way that the first bracket 72 grips around the cylinder part 78 of the syringe and in such a way that the second bracket 74 grips the free end of the piston part 80 of the syringe. A motor unit 82 is configured for moving the first bracket 72 relative to the second bracket 74, thereby making the syringe suck or eject liquids. The passage end 84 of the syringe may be connected to a hose which may be lead to the pipette 66 of the pipetting unit 18 as illustrated in fig. 4. Thereby the pipette pump 32 in combination with a pipetting unit 18 as illustrated in fig. 4 may serve the purpose of adding and removing culture media and/or cryoprotectants to and from culture wells of a culture dish being accommodated in a culture dish compartment of the apparatus 100 of the present invention.

[0117] Generally in respect of the apparatus according to the invention, the pipette pump may be shared amongst all culture dish compartments. Alternatively, one or more culture dish compartment may be associated with its own individual pipette pump.

[0118] In Fig. 6 is illustrated a manipulation unit 18 in the form of a robotic dish sealing arm 86. The robotic dish sealing arm is in the form of a robotic lid mounting arm. Said robotic lid mounting arm being configured to grip a lid from within said culture dish compartment and to move said lid and arrange said lid on top of a culture dish or of a well of a culture dish being accommodated within said culture dish compartment. This is brought about by pivotally arranging a lid mounting arm on a base 88 at one end and at the opposite end providing a working end 90 which by means of a motor unit 92 is being able to be moved independently in three dimensions. The working end 90 comprises a gripping pad 94 which is adapted to be able to grip a lid arranged within the culture dish compartment and which is adapted to place the lid on a culture dish arranged within that culture dish compartment, or on a culture well thereon.

[0119] The lid may be in the form of a thin sheet of aluminum or another metal which by use of electromagnetic radiation via induction is being sealed to the culture dish.

[0120] In the embodiment shown in 6, the manipulation unit 18 in the form of a robotic lid mounting arm 86 also functions as a manipulation unit for gripping a culture dish and to move it between said culture dish compartment and said cryogenic area of said apparatus.

[0121] Fig. 7 illustrates a culture dish 6 to be used with the apparatus illustrated in fig. 1. The culture dish comprises 8 culture wells for accommodating a viable biological material.

[0122] Fig. 8a, 8b and 8c illustrate in various views the culture dish 6 of fig. 7. In 8c it can be seen the material below the bottom of the culture wells and the wall of the culture wells is having a thickness of only 0.1 mm. Such a thin bottom below the culture wells provides in an optimum way for instant freezing when the culture dish, or at least the bottom thereof is being exposed to cryogenic conditions.

[0123] The culture dish is being manufactured in a transparent material, such as plastic.

List of reference numerals



[0124] 
2
Housing
4
Culture dish compartment
6
Culture dish
8
Culture well of culture dish
10
Image capturing device
12
Cryogenic means
14
Cryogenic area
16
Operational area
18
Manipulation unit
20
Gripping arm
22
Movement means
24
Control system
26
Lid of apparatus
28
Shelf of culture dish compartment
30
Moving means
32
Pipette pump
34
Pipette stand
36
Container for incubation liquids and/or cryoprotectants
38
Transparent shelf
40
Container for storing liquid gas
42
Input means for setting operational protocols
44
Display for displaying mode/progress of operation
46
Lid holding means
48
Material having a relative high heat conducting capacity
50
Through-going hole
52
Outer periphery of culture dish
54
Inner periphery of culture dish
56
Lid of culture dish
58
Robotic pipetting arm
60
Base of manipulation unit
62
Working end of robotic pipetting arm
64
Pipetting means
66
Pipette
68
Motor unit
70
Stand for pitting pump
72
First bracket of stand for pitting pump
74
Second bracket of stand for pitting pump
76
Plastic syringe
78
Cylinder part of plastic syringe
80
Piston part of plastic syringe
82
Motor unit
84
Passage end of syringe
86
Robotic dish sealing arm, robotic lid mounting arm
88
Base of lid mounting robotic arm
90
Working end of lid mounting robotic arm
92
Motor unit
94
Gripping pad of lid mounting robotic arm
100
Apparatus
200
System
X
Longitudinal direction
Y
Transversal direction



Claims

1. An apparatus (100) for the combined incubation and vitrification of a viable biological material;
said apparatus comprises:
a housing (2) having an extension in a longitudinal direction (X) and an extension in a transversal direction (Y); said housing comprising:

two or more individual culture dish compartments (4), each being adapted to accommodate one or more culture dishes (6) comprising a biological material, each said culture dish comprises one or more culture wells (8) for accommodating said biological material;

wherein said apparatus comprises one or more image capturing devices (10) adapted to capture images of one or more of said biological material accommodated in said one or more culture dishes;

wherein said apparatus comprises cryogenic means (12) for cooling at cryogenic temperatures of a biological material, said cryogenic means being arranged in a cryogenic area (14) at a different location relative to said two or more culture dish compartments (4);

wherein said two or more culture dish compartments and said cryogenic area together defines an operational area (16);

wherein said apparatus comprises one or more manipulation units (18), said one or more manipulation units each comprises one or more robotic arms (20), said one or more robotic arms being configured to grip and move elements and/or chemical/biological material within said operational area;

wherein said apparatus comprises movement means (22), said movement means being configured to move said image capturing device relative to said culture dishes;

wherein said apparatus comprises a control system (24) for controlling the operation thereof,

wherein said control system being configured to allow a user to input predetermined operation protocol(s) to be followed by said apparatus; and wherein said control system being configured to control said apparatus according to said protocol(s);

wherein one of said one or more manipulation units (18) comprises a robotic culture dish moving arm, wherein said robotic culture dish moving arm being configured to grip a culture dish and to move it between said culture dish compartment and said cryogenic area of said apparatus.


 
2. An apparatus (100) according to claim 1, wherein the number of individual culture dish compartments of said apparatus is 3 - 24, such as 4 - 23, e.g. 5 - 22, such as 6 - 21, e.g. 7 - 20 or 8 - 19, for example 9 - 18, such as 10 - 17, for example 11 - 16, such as 12 - 15 or 13 - 14.
 
3. An apparatus (100) according to claim 1 or 2 furthermore comprising temperature regulating means for individual regulating the temperature in one or more of said individual said culture dish compartments (4), preferable in all said individual said culture dish compartments.
 
4. An apparatus (100) according to claim 3, wherein said temperature regulating means comprise heating means, such as one or more electric heating elements; and/or cooling means, such as one or more Peltier elements.
 
5. An apparatus (100) according to any of claim 1 - 4 furthermore comprising gas composition regulating means for individual regulating the gas composition, such as the concentration of oxygen, carbon dioxide and/or nitrogen in one or more of said individual culture dish compartments, preferable in all said individual culture dish compartments (4).
 
6. An apparatus (100) according to any of claim 1 - 5 wherein said apparatus comprises an image capturing device (10) in respect of each individual culture dish compartment.
 
7. An apparatus (100) according to any of claim 1 - 6 wherein said movement means (22) are configured in such a way that said image capturing device is adapted for being moveable relative to said culture dish, thereby allowing capturing of images of each biological material accommodated in said culture dish(es).
 
8. An apparatus (100) according to any of claim 1 - 7, wherein in respect of one or more culture dish compartments (4), preferably all culture dish compartments, said culture dish compartment comprises a shelf (28) for accommodation of a culture dish, wherein said movement means (22) are configured in a way allowing said shelf to be moved, preferably by rotation, relative to said image capturing device (10), thereby allowing capturing of images of each biological material accommodated in culture dish(es).
 
9. An apparatus (100) according to any of claim 1 - 8, wherein said apparatus, for example in respect of one or more culture dish compartments, preferably all culture dish compartments, said culture dish compartment comprises a pipette pump (32), said pipette pump being configured for pipetting fluids to and from said culture well(s) of said culture dish(es).
 
10. An apparatus (100) according to any of claim 1 - 9, wherein in respect of one or more culture dish compartments (4), preferably all culture dish compartments, said culture dish compartment comprises one or more pipette stands (34) comprising one or more pipettes.
 
11. An apparatus (100) according to any of claims 1 - 10, wherein in respect of one or more culture dish compartments (4), preferably all culture dish compartments, said culture dish compartment comprises one more containers 36 for storing incubation liquids and/or cryoprotectants.
 
12. An apparatus (100) according to claim 11, wherein said one or more containers comprise a sealing syringe end cap.
 
13. An apparatus (100) according to any of claim 1 - 12, wherein in respect of one or more of said individual culture dish compartments, preferably in respect of each individual culture dish compartment, said individual culture dish comprises one or more transparent walls, and said image capturing device (10) is configured for being movable along said one or more individual culture dish compartments at positions outside said transparent wall(s), relative to the interior of said individual culture dish compartments.
 
14. An apparatus (100) according to any of claim 1 - 13, wherein said cryogenic means (12) comprise a container (40) for storing a liquid gas, such as liquid nitrogen; said container for storing of a liquid gas is separated from said one or more culture dish compartments.
 
15. An apparatus (100) according to any of the preceding claims, wherein said apparatus comprises an image processing unit for processing images captured by said image capturing device (10).
 
16. An apparatus (100) according to any of the preceding claims, wherein said image capturing device (10) comprises a microscope for capturing close-up images of said biological material.
 
17. An apparatus (100) according to any of preceding claims wherein one of said one or more manipulation units (18) comprises a robotic dish sealing arm (86), wherein said robotic dish sealing arm is being configured for sealing one or more culture dishes (6), or for sealing a well (8) of a culture dish, being accommodated within said culture dish compartment (4).
 
18. An apparatus (100) according to any of preceding claims wherein one of said one or more manipulation units (18) comprises a robotic pipetting arm (58), said robotic pipetting arm comprises a pipette (66) and wherein said robotic pipetting arm being configured to move said pipette within said culture dish compartment, (4) so as to allow withdrawing and/or adding liquids and/or suspensions to or from one or more culture wells (8) of a culture dish (6) being accommodated within said culture dish compartment.
 


Ansprüche

1. Einrichtung (100) für die kombinierte Inkubation und Vitrifikation eines lebensfähigen biologischen Materials;
wobei die Einrichtung umfasst:
ein Gehäuse (2) aufweisend eine Ausdehnung in einer Längsrichtung (X) und eine Ausdehnung in einer Querrichtung (Y); wobei das Gehäuse umfasst:

zwei oder mehrere einzelne Kulturschalenkompartimente (4), die jeweils zur Aufnahme einer oder mehrerer Kulturschalen (6), die ein biologisches Material umfassen, angepasst sind, wobei jede Kulturschale eine oder mehrere Kulturmulden (8) zur Aufnahme des biologischen Materials umfasst;

wobei die Einrichtung eine oder mehrere Bilderfassungsvorrichtungen (10) umfasst, die angepasst sind, um Bilder von einem oder mehreren der in der einen oder den mehreren Kulturschalen aufgenommenen biologischen Materialien zu erfassen;

wobei die Vorrichtung kryogene Mittel (12) zum Kühlen eines biologischen Materials bei kryogenen Temperaturen umfasst, wobei die kryogenen Mittel in einem kryogenen Bereich (14) an einer anderen Stelle relativ zu den zwei oder mehr Kulturschalenkompartimente (4) angeordnet sind;

wobei die zwei oder mehr Kulturschalenkompartimente und der kryogene Bereich zusammen einen Betriebsbereich (16) definieren;

wobei die Vorrichtung eine oder mehrere Manipulationseinheiten (18) umfasst, wobei die eine oder mehreren Manipulationseinheiten jeweils einen oder mehrere Roboterarme (20) umfassen, wobei der eine oder die mehreren Roboterarme so konfiguriert sind, dass sie Elemente und/oder chemisches/biologisches Material innerhalb des Arbeitsbereichs greifen und bewegen;

wobei die Einrichtung Bewegungsmittel (22) umfasst, wobei die Bewegungsmittel so konfiguriert sind, dass sie die Bilderfassungsvorrichtungen relativ zu den Kulturschalen bewegen;

wobei die Einrichtung ein Steuersystem (24) zur Steuerung des Betriebs davon umfasst, wobei das Steuersystem so konfiguriert ist, dass es einem Benutzer ermöglicht, ein oder mehrere vorbestimmte Betriebsprotokoll(e) einzugeben, die von der Einrichtung befolgt werden sollen; und wobei das Steuersystem so konfiguriert ist, dass es die Einrichtung gemäß dem/den Protokoll(en) steuert;

wobei eine der einen oder mehreren Manipulationseinheiten (18) einen Roboter-Kulturschalen-Bewegungsarm umfasst, wobei der Roboter-Kulturschalen-Bewegungsarm so konfiguriert ist, dass er eine Kulturschale greift und sie zwischen dem Kulturschalen-Kompartiment und dem myogenen Bereich der Einrichtung bewegt.


 
2. Einrichtung (100) nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Anzahl der einzelnen Kulturschalenkompartimente der Einrichtung 3 - 24, wie z.B. 4 - 23, z.B. 5 - 22, wie z.B. 6 - 21, z.B. 7 - 20 oder 8 - 19, zum Beispiel 9 - 18, wie z.B. 10 - 17, zum Beispiel 11 - 16, wie z.B. 12 - 15 oder 13 - 14, beträgt.
 
3. Einrichtung (100) nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, die weiter Temperaturregulierungsmittel zur individuellen Regulierung der Temperatur in einem oder mehreren der genannten individuellen Kulturschalenkompartimente (4), bevorzugt in allen genannten individuellen Kulturschalenkompartimenten, umfasst.
 
4. Einrichtung (100) nach Anspruch 3, wobei die Temperaturregulierungsmittel Heizmittel, wie ein oder mehrere elektrische Heizelemente; und/oder Kühlmittel, wie ein oder mehrere Peltier-Elemente, umfassen.
 
5. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 - 4, die weiterhin Mittel zur Regulierung der Gaszusammensetzung zur individuellen Regulierung der Gaszusammensetzung, wie z.B. der Konzentration von Sauerstoff, Kohlendioxid und/oder Stickstoff in einem oder mehreren der genannten individuellen Kulturschalenkompartimente, bevorzugt in allen individuellen Kulturschalenkompartimenten (4), umfasst.
 
6. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 5, wobei die Einrichtung eine Bilderfassungsvorrichtung (10) in Bezug auf jedes einzelne Kulturschalenkompartiment umfasst.
 
7. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 6, wobei die Bewegungsmittel (22) so konfiguriert sind, dass die Bilderfassungsvorrichtung so angepasst ist, dass sie relativ zu der Kulturschale beweglich ist, wodurch die Erfassung von Bildern jedes biologischen Materials, das in der/den Kulturschale(n) aufgenommen ist, erlaubt wird.
 
8. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 - 7, wobei in Bezug auf ein oder mehrere Kulturschalenkompartimente (4), vorzugsweise alle Kulturschalenkompartimente, das Kulturschalenkompartiment eine Ablage (28) zur Aufnahme einer Kulturschale aufweist, wobei die Bewegungsmittel (22) so konfiguriert sind, dass die Ablage relativ zu der Bilderfassungsvorrichtung (10), bevorzugt durch Drehung, bewegt werden kann, wodurch die Erfassung von Bildern jedes in der/den Kulturschale(n) aufgenommenen biologischen Materials erlaubt wird.
 
9. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 - 8, wobei die Einrichtung beispielsweise in Bezug auf ein oder mehrere Kulturschalenkompartimente, bevorzugt alle Kulturschalenkompartimente, das Kulturschalenkompartiment eine Pipettenpumpe (32) umfasst, wobei die Pipettenpumpe zum Pipettieren von Flüssigkeiten zu und von der/den Kulturmulde(n) der Kulturschale(n) konfiguriert ist.
 
10. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 9, wobei in Bezug auf ein oder mehrere Kulturschalenkompartimente (4), bevorzugt alle Kulturschalenkompartimente, das Kulturschalenkompartiment einen oder mehrere Pipettenständer (34) umfassend eine oder mehrere Pipetten umfasst.
 
11. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 - 10, wobei in Bezug auf ein oder mehrere Kulturschalenkompartimente (4), bevorzugt alle Kulturschalenkompartimente, das Kulturschalenkompartiment einen oder mehrere Behälter (36) zur Lagerung von Inkubationsflüssigkeiten und/oder Kryoprotektiva umfasst.
 
12. Einrichtung (100) nach Anspruch 11, wobei der eine oder die mehreren Behälter eine abdichtende Spritzenendkappe umfassen.
 
13. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 12, wobei in Bezug auf ein oder mehrere der einzelnen Kulturschalenkompartimente, bevorzugt in Bezug auf jedes einzelne Kulturschalenkompartiment, die einzelne Kulturschale eine oder mehrere transparente Wände umfasst und die Bilderfassungsvorrichtung (10) so konfiguriert ist, dass sie entlang des einen oder der mehreren einzelnen Kulturschalenkompartimente an Positionen außerhalb der transparenten Wand bzw. Wände relativ zum Inneren der einzelnen Kulturschalenkompartimente bewegbar ist.
 
14. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 13, wobei die kryogenen Mittel (12) einen Behälter (40) zur Speicherung eines Flüssiggases, wie z.B. flüssigen Stickstoff, umfassen; der Behälter zur Lagerung eines Flüssiggases von dem einen oder mehreren Kulturschalenkompartimenten getrennt ist.
 
15. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Vorrichtung eine Bildverarbeitungseinheit zur Verarbeitung von durch die Bilderfassungsvorrichtung (10) erfassten Bildern umfasst.
 
16. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Bilderfassungsvorrichtung (10) ein Mikroskop zur Erfassung von Nahaufnahmen des biologischen Materials Einrichtung.
 
17. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei eine der einen oder mehreren Manipulationseinheiten (18) einen Roboter-Schalenversiegelungsarm (86) umfasst, wobei der Roboter-Schalenversiegelungsarm zum Versiegeln einer oder mehrerer Kulturschalen (6) oder zum Versiegeln einer Mulde (8) einer Kulturschale, die in dem Kulturschalenkompartiment (4) aufgenommen ist, konfiguriert ist.
 
18. Einrichtung (100) nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei eine der einen oder mehreren Manipulationseinheiten (18) einen Roboterpipettierarm (58) umfasst, wobei der Roboterpipettierarm eine Pipette (66) umfasst und wobei der Roboterpipettierarm so konfiguriert ist, dass er die Pipette innerhalb des Kulturschalenkompartiments (4) bewegt, um das Entnehmen und/oder Hinzufügen von Flüssigkeiten und/oder Suspensionen zu oder aus einer oder mehreren Kulturmulden (8) einer Kulturschale (6) zu ermöglichen, die innerhalb des Kulturschalenkompartiments aufgenommen ist.
 


Revendications

1. Appareil (100) pour l'incubation et la vitrification combinées d'un matériau biologique viable ;
ledit appareil comprend :
un boîtier (2) ayant une extension dans une direction longitudinale (X) et une extension dans une direction transversale (Y) ; ledit boîtier comprenant :

au moins deux compartiments individuels de bac de culture (4), chacun étant conçu pour recevoir un ou plusieurs bacs de culture (6) comprenant un matériau biologique, chaque dit bac de culture comprend un ou plusieurs puits de culture (8) pour recevoir ledit matériau biologique ;

dans lequel ledit appareil comprend un ou plusieurs dispositifs de capture d'image (10) conçus pour capturer des images d'un ou de plusieurs dudit matériau biologique reçus dans ledit ou lesdits bacs de culture ;

dans lequel ledit appareil comprend des moyens cryogéniques (12) pour refroidir à des températures cryogéniques d'un matériau biologique, lesdits moyens cryogéniques étant agencés dans une zone cryogénique (14) à un emplacement différent par rapport auxdits deux, ou plus, compartiments de bac de culture (4) ;

dans lequel lesdits deux, ou plus, compartiments de bac de culture et ladite zone cryogénique définissent ensemble une zone fonctionnelle (16) ;

dans lequel ledit appareil comprend une ou plusieurs unités de manipulation (18), ladite ou lesdites unités de manipulation comprennent chacune un ou plusieurs bras robotiques (20), ledit ou lesdits bras robotiques étant configurés pour saisir et déplacer des éléments et/ou un matériau chimique/biologique à l'intérieur de ladite zone fonctionnelle ;

dans lequel ledit appareil comprend des moyens de mouvement (22), lesdits moyens de mouvement étant configurés pour déplacer ledit dispositif de capture d'image par rapport auxdits bacs de culture ;

dans lequel ledit appareil comprend un système de commande (24) pour commander le fonctionnement de ce dernier,

dans lequel ledit système de commande étant configuré pour permettre à un utilisateur d'entrer un ou plusieurs protocoles de fonctionnement prédéterminés qui doivent être suivis par ledit appareil ; et dans lequel ledit système de commande étant configuré pour commander ledit appareil selon ledit ou lesdits protocoles ;

dans lequel ladite unité de manipulation ou l'une desdites unités de manipulation (18) comprend un bras robotique de déplacement de bac de culture, dans lequel ledit bras robotique de déplacement de bac de culture étant configuré pour saisir un bac de culture et pour le déplacer entre ledit compartiment de bac de culture et ladite zone cryogénique dudit appareil.


 
2. Appareil (100) selon la revendication 1, dans lequel le nombre de compartiments individuels de bac de culture dudit appareil est compris entre 3 et 24, tel qu'entre 4 et 23, par exemple entre 5 et 22, tel qu'entre 6 et 21, par exemple entre 7 et 20 ou 8 et 19, par exemple entre 9 et 18, tel qu'entre 10 et 17, par exemple entre 11 et 16, tel qu'entre 12 et 15 ou entre 13 et 14.
 
3. Appareil (100) selon la revendication 1 ou 2, comprenant en outre des moyens de régulation de température pour réguler individuellement la température dans un ou plusieurs desdits compartiments individuels de bac de culture (4), de préférence dans tous lesdits compartiments individuels de bac de culture.
 
4. Appareil (100) selon la revendication 3, dans lequel lesdits moyens de régulation de température comprennent des moyens de chauffage, tels qu'un ou plusieurs éléments de chauffage électrique ; et/ou des moyens de refroidissement, tels qu'un ou plusieurs éléments Peltier.
 
5. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 4, comprenant en outre des moyens de régulation de composition de gaz pour réguler individuellement la composition d'un gaz, telle que la concentration en oxygène, en dioxyde de carbone et/ou en azote dans un ou plusieurs desdits compartiments individuels de bac de culture, de préférence dans tous lesdits compartiments individuels de bac de culture (4).
 
6. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 5, dans lequel ledit appareil comprend un dispositif de capture d'image (10) en ce qui concerne chaque compartiment individuel de bac de culture.
 
7. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 6, dans lequel lesdits moyens de mouvement (22) sont configurés de telle manière que ledit dispositif de capture d'image soit conçu pour pouvoir être déplacé par rapport au dit bac de culture, ce qui permet la capture d'images de chaque matériau biologique reçu dans ledit ou lesdits bacs de culture.
 
8. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 7, dans lequel, en ce qui concerne un ou plusieurs compartiments de bac de culture (4), de préférence tous les compartiments de bac de culture, ledit compartiment de bac de culture comprend une tablette (28) pour la réception d'un bac de culture, dans lequel lesdits moyens de mouvement (22) sont configurés de telle manière à permettre à ladite tablette d'être déplacée, de préférence par rotation, par rapport au dit dispositif de capture d'image (10), ce qui permet de capturer des images de chaque matériau biologique reçu dans le ou les bacs de culture.
 
9. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 8, dans lequel ledit appareil, par exemple en ce qui concerne un ou plusieurs compartiments de bac de culture, de préférence tous les compartiments de bac de culture, ledit compartiment de bac de culture comprend une pompe à pipette (32), ladite pompe à pipette étant configurée pour pipeter des fluides dans ledit ou lesdites puits de culture, et à partir de ces derniers, dudit ou desdits bacs de culture.
 
10. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 9, dans lequel, en ce qui un ou plusieurs compartiments de bac de culture (4), de préférence tous les compartiments de bac de culture, ledit compartiment de bac de culture comprend un ou plusieurs supports de pipette (34) comprenant une ou plusieurs pipettes.
 
11. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 10, dans lequel en ce qui un ou plusieurs compartiments de bac de culture (4), de préférence tous les compartiments de bac de culture, ledit compartiment de bac de culture comprend un ou plusieurs récipients (36) pour stocker des liquides d'incubation et/ou des cryoprotecteurs.
 
12. Appareil (100) selon la revendication 11, dans lequel ledit ou lesdits récipients comprennent un bouchon de fermeture d'extrémité de seringue.
 
13. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 12, dans lequel, en ce qui un ou plusieurs desdits compartiments individuels de bac de culture, de préférence en ce qui concerne chaque compartiment individuel de bac de culture, ledit bac de culture individuel comprend une ou plusieurs parois transparentes et ledit dispositif de capture d'image (10) est configuré pour pouvoir être déplacé le long dudit ou desdits compartiments individuels de bac de culture à des positions à l'extérieur de ladite ou desdites parois transparentes, par rapport à l'intérieur desdits compartiments individuels de bac de culture.
 
14. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 13, dans lequel lesdits moyens cryogéniques (12) comprennent un récipient (40) pour stocker un gaz liquide, tel que de l'azote liquide ; ledit récipient destiné au stockage d'un gaz liquide est séparé dudit ou desdits compartiments de bac de culture.
 
15. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel ledit appareil comprend une unité de traitement d'image pour traiter des images capturées par ledit dispositif de capture d'image (10).
 
16. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel ledit dispositif de capture d'image (10) comprend un microscope pour capturer des images en gros plan dudit matériau biologique.
 
17. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel ladite unité de manipulation ou l'une desdites unités de manipulation (18) comprend un bras robotique d'étanchéité de bac (86), dans lequel ledit bras robotique d'étanchéité de bac est configuré pour sceller un ou plusieurs bacs de culture (6) ou pour sceller un puits (8) d'un bac de culture, qui est reçu à l'intérieur dudit compartiment de bac de culture (4).
 
18. Appareil (100) selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel ladite unité de manipulation ou l'une desdites unités de manipulation (18) comprend un bras robotique de pipetage (58), ledit bras robotique de pipetage comprend une pipette (66) et dans lequel ledit bras robotique de pipetage est configuré pour déplacer ladite pipette à l'intérieur dudit compartiment de bac de culture (4) de sorte à permettre le retrait de liquides et/ou de suspensions d'un ou de plusieurs puits de culture (8), et/ou l'ajout de liquides et/ou de suspensions dans un ou plusieurs puits de culture (8) d'un bac de culture (6) qui est reçu à l'intérieur dudit compartiment de bac de culture.
 




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Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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Patent documents cited in the description