Cold Chain

Does the specimen require a cold chain between the collection site and the laboratory storage or assay site?

The need for a cold chain (rapid refrigeration or freezing) from the point of specimen collection to the lab for assay can preclude inclusion of a biomarker in a study. Therefore, it is important to consider the study site and available resources when evaluating whether a specimen can be collected in the field. In many cities, sources of dry ice can facilitate shipment of specimens to other sites (e.g., labs in the US). In some countries, liquid nitrogen may be more readily available than dry ice. These logistical arrangements must be in place prior to the start of field work. The number of high-quality rapid assays and tests that can be used in the field has increased dramatically in the past few years. Such test kits may allow inclusion of an assessment in a population-based field study now that could not have been considered 10 years ago.

How can freezer storage problems be averted?

Research specimens should not be stored in a self-defrosting freezer because heater coils in the walls of the freezer that melt the frost can also melt specimens, compromising their quality. Other considerations include

  • having backup freezer space or loaner freezers available in case of freezer failures,

  • backup generators for power failures

  • alarm systems that monitor the freezer temperature.

Alarms in the CPC freezer room monitor the power supply and the temperature of all freezers; campus HVAC staff provide service and loaner freezers as needed. CPC also has a generator to connect to the freezer room in case of extended power outages. Such arrangements for remote field sites are not likely to be available; however, the researcher needs to consider what precautions are feasible (e.g., liquid nitrogen, generators) and include them in the planning and budgeting for biomarker collection.

Dry ice

Freezer alarm

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