How CultureTrax Works


What is CultureTrax?

CultureTrax is a software productivity tool specifically designed to meet the needs of scientists working with stem cells and other types of advanced cell and tissue culture. CultureTrax enables you to quickly and easily plan and fully document your cell culture and analytical work. The software also provides a repository for detailed, current protocols and recipes, structured to drive both accurate execution in the lab and rapid, comprehensive recording of results.

CultureTrax is a secure web application (hosted on Amazon Web Services), so you can access your work from anywhere through a browser on your PC or tablet. CultureTrax enables you to easily share both your experimental workload and detailed results with your colleagues in a way not possible before.

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Major functions in CultureTrax and how they work together.

Planning & Documenting Your Lab Work

CultureTrax provides a high-level overview and lets you quickly drill down into the important details as you plan, document, and review your work. The unique Protocol Template feature provides the comprehensive daily guidance needed to accurately execute recipes, cell culture and analytical methods. This framework also enables efficient, and comprehensive recording of your experiments, automatically managing the data linkages needed to connect your complete culture history with the analytical results and observations. CultureTrax standardizes how data is recorded and shown, so that others can easily understand how your work was done.

Culture Track Navigator

The heart of the application is the Culture Track Navigator, which provides a week-long overview of your past, current, and planned work. You can see at a glance what has been completed and what needs to be done for all the cells you have in culture, enabling you to visually manage even the most complex experiments.

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Culture Track Navigator screen.

Culture Tracks

Each row on the Navigator is a Culture Track – specific cells being cultured under a particular Protocol, contained in a set of specific Vessels and Wells. Each Culture Track is a unified collection of data for planning and documenting your cell culture and analytical work. Unlike conventional electronic lab notebooks, CultureTrax automatically maintains all the complex data connections between cells, Protocols, Vessels, and results within and between Culture Tracks, creating fully traceable culture histories going back to the original source cells.

Daily Actions

By clicking on the Navigator for a specific Culture Track and day, you are taken to the Daily Actions screen, which lets you quickly set up and record even the most complex sets of Actions on specific Vessels and Wells. The Actions planned for each day of the Protocol are available by default. If needed, however, you can run any Action from your Protocol on any day, or even create custom Actions on the spot. On the other hand, when you just need to feed the cells in multiple Culture Tracks, you can record your work with just a few clicks.

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Daily Actions screen

Each Action has a list of required Materials, with preset fields to record the specific batches or lots used. Action details also can include a written method, reference Documents, and places to record observations and analytical results (including links to large data files), all automatically connected to the Action as part of the culture history.

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Action details screen

Vessels and Wells

Each Culture Track and its cells are linked in the software to a set of specific Wells in identified Vessels. A wide range of Vessel types are available, including multi-Well plates and single Well vessels such as dishes and flasks. As Actions are performed on selected Vessels and Wells, data is recorded on a Well-by-Well basis, enabling you to accurately track even complex experiments with multiple cell lines and/or treatment conditions in a single plate. The graphical Vessel details screen and color-coded icons make it easy to set up and see what’s happening. CultureTrax automatically keeps the culture history linked even when Actions result in the cells being moved from one Vessel or Well to another (such as during a passage) or are moved to a new experiment.

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Vessel details screen

Your Lab’s Resources

CultureTrax provides a solution for several problems faced by most lab groups – how to fully document critical protocols and recipes, keep them all up to date, and ensure everyone is using the most current version. The Libraries for Materials, Documents and Protocol Templates provide a centralized repository for these key resources. Recipes and Protocol Templates can be saved as drafts, kept personal while being created and refined, then added to the lab group Library when they are ready for broader use. The structured framework for these resources makes it easy to capture all the important details but provide a great deal of flexibility to meet your specific needs. Library resources can be copied and edited at any time to keep them up to date as you make new discoveries. Unlike static documents, CultureTrax Materials and Protocol Templates are built to guide you and your colleagues to accurately plan, execute and document your work in the lab.

Materials & Documents

Critical Materials, including both single ingredients and complex recipes, are the lifeblood of stem cell science. CultureTrax has a feature-rich set of tools for comprehensively documenting Materials, which can be used as part of Actions or Vessels, and even as Ingredients for other Materials. PDF Documents (including anything from published papers to manufacturer’s operating instructions) can also be placed in the Library and used throughout the application to provide a one-click instant reference.

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Recipe Material screen

Protocol Templates

Protocol Templates are created by setting up specific Actions which incorporate Materials, method descriptions, reference Documents and other details needed to guide accurate execution in the lab. Each Action has a selected type, corresponding to a common cell culture or analysis procedure such as Thaw, Feed, Passage, Cryopreserve, Endpoint Assay, etc. Selecting the type adds required data fields and enables the software to automatically create the necessary data links and handle Vessel and Well transitions when the Action is recorded for a given day in a specific Culture Track.

The Actions are placed on a timeline (which can be weeks or even months long if needed), providing guidance as to which Actions are needed on specific days in the Protocol. When you first start a new Culture Track, you select a Protocol Template from the Library and the Actions, timeline and all the other information is loaded from the Template into the Culture Track as its Protocol.

Protocol Templates can be copied and edited, securely shared with other lab groups who use CultureTrax, and can be converted to a Zip file containing a Word document with all the details included, along with copies of all the reference Documents.

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Action timeline of a Protocol

CultureTrax in Action

In addition to sharing key resources like current Protocols and Materials, CultureTrax also enables you to share both the execution and the results of your experimental work with colleagues in the lab. Anyone in your lab group can be made a collaborator on a Culture Track, with the ability to both review results and even execute and record lab work on your behalf. Because your resources and experiments are presented in a standard and detailed format, you have a high degree of assurance that the work can be done correctly. This was demonstrated in an NIH-funded, controlled lab study, which showed scientists using CultureTrax had dramatically better success replicating a cell culture protocol they had not run previously.

The figure below shows a hypothetical, complex, collaborative experiment that can be fully planned and documented using CultureTrax. In this example, source fibroblasts from individual patients are reprogrammed by one scientist into iPSCs, which are cryopreserved and stored in a cell bank. Secure links to the medical and genomic data for each patient are attached to their source cell notes in the software. A second scientist expands iPSCs from the bank, which are differentiated into two type of cells using two different protocols and combined using another protocol into a disease model to test new drugs by a third scientist. Any lab researcher finding an interesting analytical result in this experiment could use the automatic data linkages in CultureTrax to quickly reference the medical and genomic data about the individual who provided the original source cells or images from the differentiation protocols. This example shows the power of the automatic linking of culture histories with analytical results provided by CultureTrax.

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CultureTrax in Action