Updated on 2 August 2013
Global proliferation of disease-based biobanks has triggered a massive interest in long-term sample storage
Singapore: Frost and Sullivan has highlighted that the global proliferation of disease-based biobanks has triggered a massive interest in long-term sample storage in clinical research. This has spawned a requirement for good storage practices and standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Biobanks need to carefully evaluate complaint storage, sample shipment and data management procedures during the formulation of a strategic sample management plan. They are acknowledging the need to maintain sample integrity and viability by adopting new storage methodologies and solutions that will guarantee better sample quality to the research community.
Traditional methods of storage include storing samples in laboratory freezers at -20 degrees C, -80 degrees C and liquid nitrogen. These processes are being largely automated with the help of radio frequency identification (RFID) and micro electromechanical systems (MEMS) technologies. However, in recent times, there has been a perceptible shift in preference towards room temperature storage. Vendors such as Biomatrica and IntegenX, are developing reagents to stabilise the DNA and RNA so they last long under ambient temperature. This process effectively eliminates the need for freezer units and extra storage space.
Over time, it becomes difficult for biobanks and biorepositories to track and retrieve samples stored at ultra-low temperatures. Traditional methods of storage involve barcoding microplates, wherein the retrieval of a single sample from a microplate would involve thawing the entire plate, which will affect the freeze-thaw cycles of other samples. Therefore, under the new system, sample storage is carried out in microtubes and individual vials.
Earlier, equipment and robotic arms were designed to handle microplates; now, systems are flexible enough to cherry pick individual microtubes. For instance, TTP LabTech provides high-capacity storage for automated biobanking at -80 degrees C; this system is capable of selecting a sample within 60 seconds. Other notable mentions are Hamilton Storage, which provides a scalable and flexible third-generation automated system for biobanking; and Matrical Bioscience, which provides automated sample storage management and retrieval systems. Most of the storage systems today offer robotic interfaces inside a chilled atmosphere to prevent the disturbance of unused samples.