5 Dos and Don’ts of Specimen Storage

As a follow-up to our recent Documenting Specimen Storage post, here are some key specimen storage tips:

Do:

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1.  Keep cross-contamination in mind when storing your specimen samples.  If you work in a lab where researchers are going to be working with a combination of bacteria, yeast, cell cultures and viruses, make sure to store each so that cross-contamination is not a possibility in incubators, freezers, and tissue culture hoods.  Use a labeling system to dedicate specific lab areas.

2.  Use an electronic management system for tracking and managing specimen to streamline collections throughout your lab.  Use a centralized web-based system, such as Labguru’s cloud management system, to create a uniform database for all researchers to upload, track, change and label samples.

3.  Consider digitizing your organization and labeling of samples with barcoded or numerically based identification system.  Did you know that patient-related sample mislabeling (in both academic and hospital settings) cost an average of $712 per mistake?  Research labs dependent on large libraries and expensive cell lines for screenings stand to lose even more.  Digital labeling systems based on computers and automated tracking will largely reduce human-related laboratory errors.

4.  Consider professional storage, tracking and management for your sample collections, especially if they are large libraries that are expensive to procure and/or copy. Specialized companies will assign dedicated management teams to track new samples and manage current collections, even handling monitoring of freezers and chain-of-custody storage.  If your samples are of high importance, are rare, or expensive, it’s worth a try to leave them in professional hands. 5.  Establish strict, laboratory-wide guidelines for specimen collection and sample storage practices.  There are numerous templates from other labs posted online as a resource guide.  Enforce uniform training in the lab, and have managers and group leaders periodically ensure guidelines are followed.