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HIT Picking [Cherry Picking]

HIT picking, commonly referred to as cherry picking, involves the precise selection of specific samples or “hits” that display desired characteristics from a large set. It’s crucial in high-throughput screening workflows like drug discovery, genomic studies, and proteomics.

Hitpicking 2

HIT picking and cherry picking essentially refer to the same process. Both terms describe the selective identification and isolation of specific samples, or “hits”, from a larger set based on desired characteristics. This process is instrumental in high-throughput workflows such as drug discovery, genomic studies, and proteomics.

The scale of HIT picking poses challenges, especially when done manually, due to the potential for human error, physical fatigue, and slow throughput. To mitigate these issues, automation of HIT picking is recommended. Automated systems integrate robotics with liquid handling devices to quickly and accurately select “hits”, and they often include features like barcoding, temperature control, and data management software.

Hit Picking Vs. Cherrypicking

The term ‘HIT picking’ originated from the practice of selecting “hits” or positive results from a large-scale screening process, often in the context of identifying potential drug candidates. The term ‘hit’ is used metaphorically to signify a positive result, much like scoring a ‘hit’ in target-based games.

On the other hand, ‘cherry picking’ is a term that metaphorically migrated from its original context of picking the ripest or most desirable cherries from a tree. In a similar vein, in scientific research, cherry picking refers to the practice of carefully selecting the most promising or suitable samples from a larger set for further analysis.

Workflows Needing HIT Picking

HIT picking is particularly crucial in workflows such as:

  1. Drug discovery, where it’s used in the process of high-throughput screening to identify promising compounds that show activity against a target of interest.
  2. Genomic studies, especially in clone library construction and screening, where specific clones displaying the desired phenotype or genotype need to be isolated.
  3. Proteomics, where it is used to identify “hit” proteins that interact with a target molecule or display desired functionalities.

Cherrypicking has never been easier

The OT-2 is a bench-top liquid handler designed to be accessible and flexible enough to automate many common applications.

Top Methods for HIT Picking

  1. Manual pipetting: This involves manual handling of each sample using a pipette. Although this method offers high precision, it’s labor-intensive and time-consuming.
  2. Robotic arm systems: These can automate the pipetting process, increasing throughput and reducing human error.
  3. Acoustic dispensing: This is a non-contact method that uses sound waves to transfer tiny amounts of liquid. It’s highly precise and can handle large sample libraries.


Protocol Spotlights

Opentrons helps you automate Cherrypicking with open-source protocols for the OT-2 and Opentrons Flex

Why is HIT Picking Difficult?

Cherry picking is challenging due to the sheer scale of the task. In high-throughput workflows, thousands to millions of samples may need to be screened. Manual selection and processing of “hits” can be laborious, time-consuming, and prone to error.

Key Challenges of HIT Picking with Manual Pipetting

  1. Throughput: Manual pipetting simply cannot match the speed of automated systems, making it unsuitable for large-scale projects.
  2. Error: Manual pipetting is prone to human error, such as mis-pipetting, cross-contamination, or incorrect sample identification.
  3. Fatigue: Repetitive pipetting can lead to physical strain and fatigue, further increasing the risk of error.

How to Automate the HIT Picking Process

Automation of HIT Picking (Cherry Picking) often involves the integration of robotic systems with liquid handling devices. These systems can rapidly and accurately pick “hits” based on preset criteria. They often include features such as barcoding for sample tracking, temperature control for sample stability, and software for data management and analysis.

Benefits of Automation over Manual Pipetting for HIT Picking

  1. Increased throughput: Automated systems can handle larger sample sizes in significantly less time than manual pipetting.
  2. Reduced error: Automation minimizes human error, ensuring more accurate and reliable results.
  3. Reproducibility: Automated systems provide consistent performance, ensuring more reproducible results across different runs and operators.
  4. Cost-effectiveness: Although the initial investment may be higher, automated systems can be more cost-effective in the long run by reducing labor costs and increasing efficiency.

Want to know more?

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