A Sample Tube Is Not Just a Tube.

A sample tube is not just a tube - it is a potential revenue stream. The biological sample inside that tube could be the missing piece for a significant scientific breakthrough. For a patient, it could be the difference between life or death. With the rise of personalized medicine and targeted therapeutics, research organizations around the world are building large biobanks of frozen biological samples. However, to leverage the value of these biobanks, sample integrity cannot be compromised.

Maintaining sample integrity within a biobank is a complex process. Understanding the importance of sample tube selection is an important part of that process. Biological samples can be affected by collection, transport, storage and handling practices1. Also, factors such as sample retrieval and inadequate patient consent can jeopardize the value of biological samples2.

Groups such as the Medical Research Council (MRC) in the UK and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the US have long been calling for biological sample handling to be standardized across the industry1,2. The MRC recently published ethical guidelines for the use of biological samples in research2. In these guidelines, the MRC states that research organizations should: “Maximize the research use of collections of samples to benefit science and society – both by planning for the futures uses of new collections, and fully using existing collections.”

One of the best ways to maximize the research use of frozen biological sample inventories is to use samples in more than one study. In order to do this, research organizations must ask for the appropriate informed consent from patients at the time of sample collection and store frozen biological samples in a way that ensures sample integrity.

Life science organizations developing biopharmaceutical products must also abide by strict regulatory guidelines. This means tracing all biological samples throughout their lifecycle and recording that tracking information. Organizations can optimize their sample management workflow, saving time and money, by using automated tracking systems and appropriate sample tubes from a range such as FluidX™.

FluidX, from Brooks Life Sciences, offers the broadest range of sample tubes on the market including tri-coded jacket tubes featuring a 2D code, linear barcode and human readable number (HRN); 2D barcoded tubes and non-coded tubes. Therefore, it is possible to select a suitable tube that can be easily and reliably read by 2D barcode readers, linear barcode scanners and laboratory staff and subsequently tracked to a central inventory management system.

Data protection legislation in the UK, Europe, the US and other regulated markets require that all data associated with biological samples be securely stored3,4. Some biobanking organizations choose to use spreadsheets to manage their frozen biological inventories, which can be very labor intensive. Despite high levels of training human error is still a risk, furthermore, spreadsheets may not provide a full history of data entry and edits, which is required for regulatory compliance. Therefore, the use of spreadsheets to manage frozen biological sample inventories can cause issues regarding data reliability, security and traceability.

Frozen biological sample inventory management systems can mitigate the risks associated with sample and data storage. Inventory management systems can track frozen biological samples and link patient consent, medical records, results, treatments and other phenotypic data to each sample. Management systems can accurately identify parent samples and aliquots, control user access to samples and provide a full history of storage temperature, conditions and sample use. They can also link all research data to each sample used to generate that data. 

Brooks Life Sciences FreezerPro™ Sample Inventory Management System is a comprehensive frozen sample management solution used in over 800 laboratories and biorepositories around the world. FreezerPro offers safe, secure and reliable cryopreservation and frozen sample handling workflows for all types of biological samples. The system also allows research organizations to manage all data associated with their frozen biological sample inventory and to comply with international regulatory guidelines.

FluidX sample tubes and FreezerPro sample management system provide an integrated sample handling workflow that maintains the quality and integrity of frozen biological samples and research data.

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1. NCI Best Practices for Biospecimen Resources

2. MRC ethics series. Human Tissue and Biological Samples for Use in Research: Operational and Ethical Guidelines

3. Data Protection Act 1998

4. Nass, S.J., Levit, L.A., Gostin, L.O. (ed). Beyond the HIPAA Privacy Rule: Enhancing Privacy, Improving Health Through Research. National Academies Press. 2009