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Q & A with Esther Johann

We recently visited PhD student Esther Johann, working for Merck, to discuss how she’s found working with Quasi Vivo®

How did you hear about Quasi Vivo®?

I guess it was Phil (Hewitt, Esther’s PhD supervisor) so it must have been part of my PhD.

We tried to find some flow systems, so we looked at other systems such as CellASIC® and Pearl, but they were not really a finished product. These systems were both gravity driven, and so have a high pressure and are limited to 100 µl of media per day, which is a very low flow rate. So we moved on to Quasi Vivo®.

I met Malcolm Wilkinson (Kirkstall’s CEO) and David Davies (from Kirkstall’s manufacturing Parker Hannifin) with Phil, they brought the plates and showed how the system works. It was interesting to compare ‘static’ flow and flow you can manipulate with a pump.

Why were you interested in flow?

Regarding the liver, flow is quite interesting.

3D structure is interesting for every organ, and also flow, but the architecture of the liver is quite unique so it makes sense to try flow. And it does make a difference, as we have seen.

What are current static models lacking?

Physiological integrity, this is the main thing. It is part of my work to implicate more physiologic properties into in vitro systems.

Why was Quasi Vivo® appealing to you in comparison to other systems?

Because you are able to manipulate the flow to really find out the right flow rate for each cell system.

With the HepaRG in the Quasi Vivo® system I used 2 flow rates, 250 µl min-1 and 500 µl min-1, and the expression (of tested proteins) was a bit higher at 500 µl min-1.

But does that resemble the in vivo state? It’s crucial to first find out everything you need to know about what happens in vivo then apply it to Quasi Vivo®.

How did you find comparing 2D and 3D samples in Quasi Vivo®?

In comparison to 2D, the Quasi Vivo® samples have much higher expression (of tested proteins). In comparison to 3D, it depends on time point. Sometimes it looks like expression of some proteins is fluctuating, but I would need more time points to really understand this.

What end points have you been able to look at with Quasi Vivo®?

The only end point I’ve used so far is protein isolation and Western blots, because it was a nice way to compare the different cell culture systems.

Every system requires different amounts of cells, etc, so it is difficult to find an end point that suits them all. So I decided to use the total protein amount, because I gathered a large amount of protein.

Did you manage to make any Western blots from your cells cultured in Quasi Vivo®?

Yes of course, it’s very easy actually!

How did you find working with the Kirkstall team?

Good! It was a really nice week with Malcolm and everyone for the training and I’ve stayed in contact. It was important to me that Kirkstall were very supportive during my research project.

Did you get the technical support you needed?

The first time I assembled it David came to support me again, because it had been a while since the training. We assembled just one plate together, then the next day I assembled the system with all six plates no problem.

It can look complicated, but once you know how it works its really easy.

Really easy.

We would like to thank Esther for taking the time to talk to us. 

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