Going Through Samples or Re-inventorying? eLearning Modules to Help You Become a Sample Re-inventory Pro
What’s in YOUR Freezer??
Conducting a search and re-inventory of materials in multiple laboratories and biobanks is an intimidating prospect. Yet in the aftermath of discovering vials containing smallpox and other pathogens in a low-security environment, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has decided to do just that.
The materials were collected and stored in the 1950s and left in place under conditions deemed appropriate at the time. However, their discovery serves as a wake-up call to all institutions that have been involved in research for multiple decades, and that may also have materials in storage that were stored according to criteria that are now long outdated.
Although the laboratory and the vials that made the headlines at NIH were under the management of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the NIH is planning a comprehensive search of its laboratory spaces in response to the discovery. And given the size and challenge of the task, Thermo Fisher Scientific has made a special offer to help. If you are wondering what might be hiding in your freezers or learn about some of the common mistakes during sample re-inventorying, Thermo Fisher is offering some guidance on conducting a re-inventory of research materials.
Whether you are re-inventorying yourself or outsourcing to a sample management service provider, Alex Esmon, PhD, a global product manager for cryopreservation for Thermo Scientific, presents the following three-part tutorial that will help you plan and execute a re-inventory of your sample collection. Maintaining sample integrity is key (as many of my colleagues have discussed in the past, like "Know Your Samples - How Resilient are your Biomarkers?" or "Does Your BioSample Pre-analytical Process Measure Up?"
Part 1, “What Do I Need to Know Before I Open the Door,” is all about preparation. Dr. Esmon details the materials you should have on hand, given the temperature range at which the samples need to be maintained during the process, as well as considerations regarding the sample logging and documentation involved in an effective re-inventory. He provides a valuable checklist of steps to complete before you start your project. Additionally, it’s important to remember (as he points out) to have an organized, step-by-step system ready before opening your fridge or freezer door. Overall, it’s a comprehensive summary of how to prepare for a re-inventorying.
Part 2, “How Do I Maintain Sample Integrity During the Inventory Process,” is all about the importance of keeping the samples within the correct temperature range during the re-inventorying project. Esmon discusses the dangers that the freeze/thaw cycle pose to sample integrity, and reviews the different stages of “frozen.” According to Esmon, the molecular state of materials at -20°C, -80°C, and cryogenic (below -130°C, which is the glass transition point) are different, and sample integrity depends on maintaining materials within the correct range. Additionally, while he describes various ways to maintain appropriate temperatures, Esmon also advises you to prepare a contingency plan—a means for controlled refreezing of samples that have to be thawed for transfer to a new container.
Part 3, “How to Maintain Sample Integrity during Sample Transfer,” wraps up the series with specifics on both transferring samples to a new storage unit, as well as transferring the contents of one vial (or container) to a new one, in the event a container is damaged or inappropriate (a common condition among decades-old samples). Esmon also reiterates the importance of correct handling of samples, to avoid or minimize temperature stress. (Temperature compliance is a common topic in these blog posts and if the issue is new to you, we invite you to investigate further in previous blogs on biorepository science, cold-chain logistics, and biobank laboratory services). Esmon also briefly touches on the use of shippers to transfer samples between storage units in different locations, and as with temperature compliance, additional information on shippers is available in previous blog posts.
Take the time to watch these eLearning modules, and let us know via the comments section below if they were helpful!
You may also want to check out some tips on protecting and minimizing risks for your precious samples in my eBook below.