Have Lab, Will Travel : Rapid In-situ Sample Analysis with Ingenious Suitcase Lab

Portable suitcase lab enables rapid microbiology sample analysis in the field with battery-operated Sentino pump

April 29, 2021

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An environmental science research group recently published their creation of an ingenious “Suitcase Lab”. [1]


The innovative solution is being pioneered by Japanese and Chilean scientists collaborating on an efficient way to bring their lab research to the field, literally. In this two-part blog series, we explore the research applications of the “Suitcase Lab” and its components.

The authors of this recent publication are studying harmful algal blooms (HAB) in Japanese and Chilean coastal waters. These algal blooms have a serious impact on the surrounding ecosystem, including major impacts on public health, fishing livelihoods, and tourism.


The frequency of HAB has been increasing steadily over the last few decades, straining economic resources and overwhelming already stressed public healthcare systems. Early detection of HAB can help mitigate damage be giving early warning to surrounding communities, and research concerning why such algal blooms occur could aid in their prevention. However, the often remote, geographically-complex locations of HAB can mean hours of transport time, during which precious samples often deteriorate.


The researchers were determined to solve this problem by transporting their lab capabilities directly to one of the coastal sites at which the algal blooms occurred.  To this end, they decided to develop and test a “suitcase lab” that could allow for rapid onsite detection of harmful algal species and associated toxins. The group first set out to determine what capabilities they would need to transport, then assemble their suitcase components based on size and efficiency.


Briefly, the scientists needed to collect and filter seawater samples, then use DNA amplification technology to identify whether harmful algal species were present, and in what concentrations. Pall products featured heavily among the critical hardware, one of the most important pieces being a battery-operated Sentino® Microbiology Pump and its support components.


Sentino microbiology pumps are compact with a small footprint, and its battery-operated power system makes it ideal for off-site microbiological sampling applications. Watch the video to see the Sentino pump in action:

The researchers used the pump for their seawater sampling methodology, with the goal of extracting algal DNA samples for downstream species identification using LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) genetic testing technology. LAMP technology relies on DNA signal amplification, and its successful application for algal species identification had previously been validated by the authors under controlled laboratory conditions.


Seawater samples were divided into two workflows. For the first part of the study, the group used a mock setup in which seawater samples were filtered through a 10 μm nylon mesh sieve, after which the retentate was spun down, and the pellet processed using a DNA extraction kit.  Extracted DNA was examined via LAMP technology, using primers designed to screen for the presence of common HAB target species.


For the second half of their study, the group collected seawater samples, then prepared them for DNA extraction using Pall’s magnetic filter funnel technique, allowing the researchers to screen for low concentrations of HAB DNA likely to be missed in their first workflow.


In Part 2 of Have Lab, Will Travel, we examine more of the critical lab functions and components, present the HAB study results, and discuss worldwide applications for this type of portable laboratory.


Learn more about smart membrane filtration solutions for environmental microbiology.



1. Fujiyoshi S et al. Suitcase Lab: new, portable, and deployable equipment for rapid detection of specific harmful algae in Chilean coastal waters. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int.1–12. Nov 2020.


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