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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 07:09 GMT
Robotic aid to genetic study
The Robobanker at work
The study has already collected 500,000 biological samples
Two robots have been introduced to a research project that has been tracking the health of Bristol children.

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (Alspac), also known as the Children of the 90s project, maps the life of the children.

The robots - named the Germinator and the Robobanker - will help researchers improve their understanding of human molecular biology.

The Germinator grows tissue to produce DNA while the Robobanker extracts samples for analysis.

A spokesman for the Bristol University-based project said the robots were designed to provide an unlimited supply of DNA from 10,000 children and their mothers

"No other study in the world has such a large DNA collection from a normal population - or such a sophisticated system for growing human cell lines.

The Germinator
The children involved were able to name the new robots
"Over the last 12 years the study has collected 500,000 biological samples from parents and children - everything from placentas to milk teeth.

"With the advent of the human genome project, and the progress made in identifying genetic variations, the Bristol scientists realised they would need a constant supply of DNA."

Dr Richard Jones, of the Alspac project, said: "The amount of DNA currently in the Alspac bank is sufficient for us to analyse about 500 genes.

"But our worry is that with 30,000 human genes and the discovery of more and more common genetic variants, we will start to run out of DNA.

"The solution is to make 'immortalised' cell lines from blood cells collected from the Children of the 90s."


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