This Project, the Dracula Pipette Project, is intended to improve on a device invented by the Project Director (Dr. Paul Taylor) and to find ways to manufacture the device for general use. The device is a co-axial microinjection tool in which the injection pipette is presented from inside the holding pipette. This allows it to suck and hold a portion of the nearside of the surface of an embryo while an injection pipette is passed for injection, aspiration of fluid contents or biopsy of embryonic cells. The Dracula Pipette has been entirely handmade until now, and making it, especially making the delicate glass tips involved, has been too difficult and time-consuming to allow it to be used effectively by other researchers. The real significance of this device is that it allows control and manipulation of embryos at the hatched blastocyst stage of development, after hatching from the zona pellucida and before implantation in the uterus. After hatching, these embryos have no real structure and cannot be held on one side and penetrated from the opposite side, as is done routinely with embryos still in the zona. The human embryo exists for two to three days as a hatched blastocyst, and there has been no good tool for manipulating it at this most-differentiated stage before implantation. Because it is large and fluid-filled, the human hatched blastocyst is difficult to freeze successfully, and difficult to biopsy. Though the Dracula Pipette will surely be important for use with the hatched blastocysts of other species and on embryos at all stages before implantation, it is the only tool on the horizon for freezing and biopsy of human hatched blastocysts. The Small Business entity involved, GeneSearch, Inc., will supply the current best prototype of the device for testing and practical use by a variety of respected embryo researchers in a variety of laboratory settings, working with different kinds of animal models. The consultants will provide information about their experiences with the device and their ideas for improving or changing it for specific purposes. The inventor and the company Design Engineer will work to correct design problems as they are identified and will contract with various micro-technology firms for production of specific improved prototype parts. As these cycles of evaluation and upgrade continue, emphasis will shift to practical manufacture of all parts, so a robust, user- friendly device can be presented to the scientific community.
The improved Dracula Pipette, with disposable plastic tips and micromanipulator control, will be an important addition to the instrumentation in almost all biotech labs dealing with embryos. It will open areas of research in freezing and biopsy of large hatched blastocysts, areas previously ignored because the tool was lacking. Most importantly, it will give human fertility clinicians a way to freeze and biopsy human hatched blastocysts, embryos at the most differentiated stage of development before implantation in the uterus.