Biological samples handled by laboratories are temperature sensitive. Laboratories handling these samples require temperature-controlled environments inside their facilities to preserve the samples and specimens and protect product integrity.
High-performing laboratories come equipped with cold storage facilities and other temperature control solutions to protect the integrity of samples handled and ensure the reliability of test results.
But there will always be a need to handle these materials beyond the lab’s confines. Whether it’s sending samples to another lab or receiving samples from others, the transportation of biological samples can be a considerable challenge without reliable cold chain solutions designed to maintain temperatures along the supply chain.
A cold chain is a system of transport used in the keeping and distribution of temperature-sensitive products within a specific temperature range from its point of origin to its final consumer. This system is mainly called cold chain logistics, or simply a temperature-controlled supply chain, and is primarily used to transport goods from various sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.
Laboratories also require a similar quality management system for the safe handling, transport and storage of biological samples across different locations. For this reason, laboratories today turn to the specimen cold chain as their central quality management system off-site to ensure reliable results.
Federal authorities in the United States have recognized the crucial role cold chains play in food safety, public health and the national economy. The United States Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) is mandated with the regulation of the industry through strict guidelines and ensuring compliance among various sectors.
Laboratories today need greater access to reliable cold chain packaging solutions for the safe transport of biological samples. Samples like blood, urine and extracted human tissues deteriorate when exposed to heat, sunlight, moisture or even artificial light. However minor they could be, the degradation of such samples could lead to inaccurate and unreliable results.
With the specimen cold chain, the integrity of biological samples is maintained by using appropriate temperature regulation and packaging solution that minimizes exposure to potentially damaging environmental factors. Furthermore, this packaging solution is closely monitored in real-time using surveillance equipment to prevent significant temperature fluctuations that threaten sample integrity.
For cold chain solutions to be effective, they will require proper planning and implementation for environments to remain temperature-controlled during transport and delivery processes. This includes relying on various technologies and equipment to make this happen.
- Thermal Blankets and Thermal Bags – thermal blankets and bags look similar to bubble wraps but are made up of insulative materials that help maintain the temperature of samples during transport.
- Insulated Boxes – the composition of insulated boxes may vary depending on the form and function—a cost-effective solution for maintaining cold temperatures for each sample.
- Insulated Vacuum Panels – insulated vacuum panels have a vacuum between two insulating layers, offering better insulation.
- Ice Packs – water-filled packs that are usually frozen at -18°C to provide cost effective yet ample cooling inside insulated packaging and are a common
- Gel Packs – gel packs are filled with a blend of different chemicals to allow freezing at temperatures way below 0°C for an even longer period of time than an ice pack.
- Dry Ice – dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2) and is typically at -78.5ºC. It requires special packaging to limit exposure to ambient temperatures and allow venting of CO2 gas to prevent buildup of pressure.
- Liquid Nitrogen – liquid nitrogen (LN2) is a standard coolant used in the cryonic preservation of biological samples with temperatures reaching below -196°C.
Some of the most common problems encountered in specimen cold chains include:
- Prolonged power outages leading to temperature fluctuations. An uninterrupted power source (and backups when outages occur) is crucial in eliminating temperature fluctuations that threaten the integrity of samples during transport and storage.
- Deterioration of packing and storage materials compromises specimen integrity. Wastage often occurs as a result of structural or equipment failure. Proper backups always have to be in place to protect samples during transport and storage.
Path-Tec offers innovative client supply, cold chain logistics and technology solutions to help laboratories thrive in today’s healthcare environment. Our web-based platform allows you to easily manage and track your client support activities with management tools like order and distribution management, inventory control, specimen tracking, carrier and courier logistics, business analytics and in-depth reporting.
If you need help managing your specimen logistics, go to our website for more information or call 706-569-6368.