Incubator is a modern piece of laboratory equipment which is used to maintain the progressive development of microbiological cultures by regulating viable growth factors such as temperature, humidity and ventilation. Incubators are available in different sizes (e.g., laptop to small room size) catering to different requirements. Some superior qualities include being capable of controlling extreme low temperatures (microbiological incubator), humidity and carbon dioxide levels (cell culture incubator). A microbiological incubator focuses mainly on the growth and storage of bacterial cultures and control temperatures ranging from 5 to 7 degrees C.
For years, the controlled stable environment of the incubator was used for hatching poultry eggs and taking care of premature or sick babies. Today, incubators have more elaborative use and their market is thriving as a result. Scientists use incubators for medical treatments, stem cell research and experimental procedures like incubating antibodies on tissues and cells for fluorescence microscopy. Incubators can also be used to diagnose the disease-causing pathogens in the human body. By using incubators, the air around the cell culture can be regulated, which facilitates the multiplication of the disease-causing microorganisms, thus the probability of identifying a pathogen is increased.
Uses in Biology
Laboratory incubators are widely involved in a number of biological applications such as cell and tissue culture, pharmaceutical studies, hematological studies, biochemical studies, food processing, cell aeration, plant and animal studies, solubility studies, fermentation studies and bacterial culturing.
Incubators are extensively used to study tissue cultures that involve the extraction of tissue fragments from animals and plants, keep these "explants" (i.e., isolated cells from a piece of tissue) in a controlled environment and subsequently analyzing their growth. Study of these explants enables clinicians and scientists to understand the function of specific disease-causing cells such as cancer cells and help them in developing vaccines for diseases such as polio, mumps and measles. Also, the practice of tissue culture has helped scientists to detect various health disorders resulting from the absence of certain enzymes such as disorders of carbohydrate metabolism.
New avenues have opened with the advent of incubators in genetic engineering. Scientists are now able to manipulate the genetic structures of the explants. They can form novel organisms by combining DNA material from different sources. In agriculture, the new prospect of genetic engineering has helped in improving the nutritional value of various fruits and vegetables and in increasing the resistance power of many crops.