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Monitoring Devices Protect Multi-Million Dollar Research Projects

Since the 1960s, scientists have been using the zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model organism for studying human genetics and disease. While mice and rats have been common choices for research in the past, the zebrafish offers certain advantages over mammals when modeling human diseases. Zebrafish are transparent in the larval stages, allowing scientists to observe processes like tumor metastasis and blood development in bone marrow transplants. They can also produce hundreds of offspring per week and many thousands over their lifetimes.

However, zebrafish are challenging to keep alive in captivity because they are very sensitive to changes in temperature, pH level, salinity and more. A sudden shift can severely affect their immune systems and result in widespread losses. Hospitals and research institutions need to keep zebrafish in optimal environmental conditions or they risk losing years and millions of dollars in research.

Danio Lab is committed to that goal. Research labs hire Danio to maintain the health of their zebrafish colonies, and Danio relies on Sensaphone remote monitoring systems to alert them to potential problems.

Monitoring Key Conditions in Aquatic Housing Systems

Danio Lab, located in Boston, Massachusetts, works with research institutions and hospitals that conduct genetic research using zebrafish. They are experts in raising zebrafish colonies, providing aquatics room design, lab consultation, monitoring services and onsite maintenance of zebrafish housing systems.

A remote monitoring system constantly checks the status of environmental conditions in all of Danio’s clients’ research labs. Danio gets phone alerts immediately if there is a power failure, a change in filter pressure, etc. They then travel to the facility to remedy the issue before the fish are affected.

This monitoring and maintenance service helps protect the health of the zebrafish and avoid research delays. “Our goal is to provide a stable ecosystem and prevent downtime,” said Rory Francis, CEO and founder of Danio Lab.

Danio Lab was using a touchscreen controller from Aquaneering, an aquaculture products supplier Francis previously worked for. When one of the touchscreens needed to be replaced, Francis decided it was time to upgrade their remote monitoring capabilities with the Sentinel from Sensaphone.

With this system, Danio personnel can log in from their phone or mobile device. They can also monitor data from multiple systems in one dashboard. Whether he’s at home or traveling, Francis can make sure the zebrafish are safe. He can keep an eye on all his clients’ systems and view, graph, print or export data logs as needed. 

“What I liked about the Sentinel is that you can look at everything through the app,” Francis said. “You can find all the information you need in one place with
one login.”

Instant Notification of Critical Issues

Instant notifications are vital to protecting years of research and safeguarding the health of zebrafish colonies. All aquarium fish produce ammonia as a biological waste. If a water pump fails, ammonia levels can rise and eventually kill zebrafish, and they can’t survive in static water for longer than a day.

The remote monitoring system closely monitors all environmental changes that could threaten zebrafish safety. If a filter clogs, a pump fails in the middle of the night, or temperatures reach unsafe levels, Danio Lab is notified immediately. The system also monitors room temperature, water level, salinity, pH level, pump status and equipment failure. 

data logger

“Having access to all this information makes my job easier and gives us peace of mind. If something goes wrong with a filter, a pump, or the water flow, or the temperature or pH level goes out of range, we get an alert. It gives us the time to react before something really bad happens.”

Detecting Water Leaks

Danio Lab also uses Sensaphone water sensors to detect standing water on the floor. Water leaks can damage electrical equipment and spread to other labs. Early detection allows Danio to take action before irreversible damage occurs.

On one occasion, a water exchange pump failed at a research facility Danio Lab was monitoring. The incident occurred on a 4th of July weekend when no personnel were on-site.

The Sensaphone system triggered an alarm and notified Danio. They were able to resolve the issue before the client even realized there was a problem.

Fast, Easy Installation

The remote monitoring system was easy to install and configure. Danio Lab uses a variety of sensors, including pressure, water detection, salinity, pH and temperature sensors. The system was able to support all of their existing sensors, no matter what the brand.

"Sensaphone offers one of the most robust systems I’ve used,” said Francis. “They’ve always provided great support and help integrating these systems, and it all benefits life-saving medical research.”