Individual plant cells can reveal how certain plants thrive in a variety of environments. Studying plant cells in single cell formats promises richer, more detailed data sets than pooling all the information together. However, plant cells can be difficult to isolate without killing the cell. Roots and shoots are often tough and fibrous while leaves are typically broad and tender. Ripping apart the plant in a process called dissociation can be labor intensive. Often the solution is lots of people with lots of scissors. This makes large data sets very difficult to acquire.
The scientists and engineers at Fraunhofer CMI have set out to solve this problem by drawing from one of the oldest human tools—the mortar and pestle. Used for millennia to bash plant material into paste, Fraunhofer CMI is automating this process to rapidly dissociate all parts of the plant from numerous crops. This work promises to allow researchers in the agricultural industry to get the data they need with minimal effort.
Most tissue dissociators on the market currently mimic blenders or are containers full of metal beads that break the tissue into pieces. While suitable for small studies with large individual samples, data-driven science requires large studies with small individual samples.