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How Sample Management Works

Problem: Laboratories are faced with challenges when it comes to storing and tracking samples. 

by Thermo Scientific
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Problem: Researchers have to manage sample tubes to ensure they’re reliably logged in and out of a laboratory’s database or laboratory information management system. There are many moving parts of a laboratory, and multiple researchers may handle the same sample throughout several stages before, during, and after the storage process. With multiple hands on one sample, tracking the location and status of samples can be challenging, and as the number of samples stored increases, so do the challenges. Unfortunately it is not unusual to lose samples, to find that labels have fallen off, or for samples to become compromised because of evaporation or temperature variations.

Solution: There are four main aspects of sample management that can help ensure that costly, resource-intensive pitfalls don’t occur. They are:

  1. Collect: A critical aspect of successful sample storage across a range of temperatures is the preservation of sample material over the storage lifetime. Selecting a tube that enables accurate tracking over the lifetime of the sample is crucial. Storage tubes with custom coding or tubes that are laser etched with a unique 2D code, allow the user to associate sample information with individual samples identified by the specific 2D barcode. To ensure sample tracking with highest contract for readability over long periods of time, various temperatures, and even some frost on the tube, the barcodes are laser etched on the base of every tube.

  2. Seal: Each storage tube must have a secure seal to preserve the quality of its contents by preventing evaporation and contamination from outside the tube, to ensure sample integrity. There are numerous innovative ways to seal sample tubes. Heat-sealing tubes with a pierceable foil seal offers easy access with manual or automated pipette tips and is a cost-effective option for securing samples. A gasketed screw top closure offers seal reliability, and in many cases is compatible with both handheld and benchtop automated decappers.

  3. Track: Managing sample data is key in tracking samples over their lifecycle, and laboratories need a robust offering of sample management products and services to address scaling needs. Instant access to information helps laboratories respond to organizational pressures, streamline operations and contribute to the overall efficiencies, cost savings and revenue-generating activities. Integrating all the activities in the lab with a laboratory information management system (LIMS) is essential to streamlining the lab and making data available where it is needed.

    For example, a database such as the VisionTracker™ program, tracks the location of storage tubes (non-coded, 1D abd 2D) in a box and freezer rack, the location of the rack in a cold storage unit, and all associated sample data to keep track of every sample. The database should allow users to easily search samples for quick retrieval, is CFR21 Part 11 compliant, and is an easy and simple tool for tracking sample information and location.

    Also, a barcode reader quickly decodes 2D barcoded storage tubes with both single tube and full rack reading capabilities. Together with manual or automation friendly designs, barcode readers accommodate a range of throughput and tracking requirements.

    In addition to tracking consumables such as barcoded storage tubes, a LIMS provides secure and integrated data management throughout the laboratory setting so that data generated by all instruments is captured and stored in a central repository. A LIMS also helps the lab automate and manage workflow and SOPS so that lab processes, such as tracking storage tubes and samples, can be more easily and effectively managed. Enterprise level Thermo Scientific LIMS are proven in the broadest range of industries, from early stage drug discovery and pharma QA/QC, to food production, oil and gas, and environmental testing.

  4. Store: Maximize cold storage space with dense low temperature storage and CryoBoxes with a 13 x 13 divider to double storage capacity. Thermo Scientific cold storage products offer complete, proven solutions ranging from +4°C refrigerators to -196°C cryogenic freezers that allow scientists to concentrate on their research, rather than the storage of samples. Ultra-low temperature freezers feature ultra space efficiency, fast temperate recovery after door openings, and are energy efficient. Other advances in cold storage include wireless monitoring systems for remote access that alert users when sample integrity is threatened.

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