By Sue Dafnias

Automated staining instruments have played a key role in the growth of immunohistochemistry (IHC) testing, and now a new generation of automated staining systems promises to deliver higher levels of productivity and flexibility to meet the growing demands of today’s pathology laboratories.

 The Bond-X system developed and manufactured by Vision BioSystems.

In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the use of medical tests for many types of cancer. New emerging therapies are causing substantial growth in the number of tests performed on patient tissue samples. In turn, greater demand has been placed on laboratories to provide faster turnaround times while maintaining high quality and reproducible test results. Additionally, most pathology laboratories provide a range of histopathology tests to other labs. Patient samples arrive at the laboratory throughout the day on a continuous and unpredictable basis, adding to workload pressures.

Many pathology laboratories now rely upon automated IHC staining systems to manage the growth in demand for histopathology testing. Until now no single system has been able to effectively cope with a continuous stream of incoming samples, because IHC instruments have been designed so that the first test run must be complete before additional tests can be started. In order to accommodate all incoming tests, a lab is forced either to delay testing to fit many samples on one run or to purchase additional instruments in order to do more than one run at a time.

 Continuous batch processing on Bond-X system.

Vision BioSystems looked closely at these and other laboratory workflow issues prior to development of the Bond-X™ system. The variance in the arrival times of the tissue samples and lack of flexibility in processing runs were found to be problematic for many laboratories. Therefore, Vision BioSystems developed a random access capability feature to alleviate these problems and provide the type of flexibility required. The recently released Bond-X system has a capacity of 30 slides per module—three batches of 10 slides. Each batch can be started independently of the other two, providing continuous batch processing. In other words, each batch of 10 slides operates independently, and each batch can be processed with multiple staining protocols. With this continuous batch processing, laboratories are able to adapt their slide-preparation process for a more continuous and efficient workflow.

Positive Feedback From Users
Barry Madigan from Royal Brisbane Hospital in Brisbane, Australia has been using two Bond-X systems in the laboratory for more than 7 months. He says that until recently Royal Brisbane was able to turnaround only one or two IHC batch runs in a day. Bond’s continuous batch processing gives the facility greater flexibility and the ability to complete three and sometimes four runs per day. “Previously, we had to wait for other samples to arrive before we could start or stop a run,” Madigan says. “Bond-X removes these impediments and gives us the ability to start or stop any run independently, which in turn means the flow of work runs more smoothly and pathologists get their results more quickly than before.”

 Craig Barker, charge scientist, Medlab Bay of Plenty, a Division of Pathology Associates Ltd, New Zealand.

Craig Barker, charge scientist for Medlab Bay of Plenty (a division of Pathology Associates Ltd, New Zealand), says the continuous batch processing capability represents a significant improvement over Medlab’s previous automation system. “Our last system had a 48-slide maximum capacity, and once a run started, it could not be stopped. We have two Bond-X systems installed, which gives us a maximum capacity of 60 slides as well as the ability to stop and start runs as required,” says Barker. He adds that the new system saves up to 4 hours a day over their previous staining system and has led to a significant increase in laboratory productivity. His laboratory now processes significantly more tests per month as a result of the Bond-X systems.

Accommodating Larger Workloads While Reducing Costs
Larger laboratories can accommodate bigger workloads by using Bond-X as a modular system. Up to five separate modules can be linked to one PC, offering users a capacity of up to 150 slides with continuous batch processing at any one time. Additionally, the system’s unique patented covertile technology has advantages over conventional capillary gap systems. The ability to move the covertile on and off the slide produces a “bow wave” that prevents any bubble formation on the slide. Also, a purpose-built vacuum port controls flow of reagents underneath each covertile. This allows for smaller amounts of reagents to be uniformly applied, reducing reagent costs.

To further reduce reagent costs, the increased sensitivity of the new Bond™ Polymer Detection System produced by Novocastra, a Vision BioSystems company, enables laboratories to dramatically dilute their primary antibodies. “This cost savings means my budget goes a lot further, giving me the ability to purchase new and different antibodies, thereby increasing the lab’s overall capability,” says Barker.

“The Bond Polymer Detection System allows for much greater dilutions and much cleaner slides—particularly on tissue that is high in biotin,” says Madigan.

On the Horizon
Vision BioSystems is also working on the Bond-maX system, which will offer all of the unique features of Bond-X, plus the ability to perform immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization staining simultaneously. Bond-maX will also fully automate the entire process from dewax and epitope retrieval through counterstain.

For more information contact Sue Dafnias, marketing manager, Clinical, Vision BioSystems, 61 3 9211 7400 or [email protected],   or visit Vision BioSystems’ Web site at

To contact Vision BioSystems in the US, call (781) 616-1190 or (800) 753-7264.