For many years laboratory incubators have been used to provide warmth for premature babies, poultry eggs, and more. But because of modern technological advancements, incubators are now being used for an entirely different function — for the culture of micro-organisms. This is done primarily for medical research and for the development of new drugs.
Brief History of Incubators
The first record of incubator-based technology can be traced to ancient Egypt and China. Their incubator was heated by wood fire, in which chicken eggs were placed. This was done so that hens could continually produce eggs even if their newly laid eggs were not yet hatched.
A little later in history, incubators were heated by alcohol lamps and wood stoves. Today, most industrial incubators use electricity to accurately maintain room temperature. Fans are added so that heat will evenly be distributed inside the room. Moreover, external oxygen is being pumped inside the incubator to maintain a constant oxygen level.
Incubators for Babies
CO2 incubators are very useful in various medical and industrial fields
It was only during the later part of the nineteenth century when doctors figured out incubators could be used to increase premature babies’ survival rate. The first-ever use of the incubator for babies was recorded in a women’s hospital in Paris.
In 1933, the first electric baby incubator was invented by Julius H. Hess. Later, enclosure was added to trap heat inside the incubator. The cover was placed above the crib, and it was made transparent so that observers could see the baby. A hole was added where long-arm gloves were installed so that caregivers could take care of the baby without removing the enclosure.
During the twentieth century, CO2 incubators started to be used in laboratory set-ups. Incubators are now used to culture micro-organisms with the aim of identifying pathogens. This has exponentially improved the accuracy of doctors’ diagnoses for their patients. A sample is obtained and it is stored in a sterile medium. To grow the micro-organism, the incubator’s temperature and humidity are increased. In addition to this, carbon dioxide is also introduced inside the chamber.
Another use of incubators in the laboratory is for tissue culture. This type of technique involves obtaining tissue samples from animals and plants. The tissue sample is then placed in a temperature-controlled environment. Through tissue culture, scientists are given the opportunity to study and observe the behaviours of particular cells. Tissue culture has led to the formulation of vaccines for influenza, mumps, measles, and polio. Chemotherapy drugs are also developed with the help of tissue culture.
Primarily, genetic engineering stemmed from tissue culture. Genetic engineers obtain a DNA sample of one organism and try to combine it with another organism’s DNA. Incubators are used in sperm banks and cloning. The most famous use of genetic engineering is food production. Because of incubators, scientists are able to increase a crop’s resistance to diseases.
This is just some of the basic information about incubators. There is no doubt that incubators have helped the growth of modern technology and facilitated improvement of man’s civilisation.