You may be aware that samples collected with DNA Genotek kits and reagents can be shipped and stored at ambient temperature. However, you may not have considered the many benefits afforded by this ability. Not requiring dry ice, cold packs, or freezers can allow you to increase the scope of your study with less cost and logistical complexity. Precious biological samples are also protected from damage caused by shipping delays or power failures. In short, the improved efficiencies ambient protection provides will enable you to accomplish more with your valuable research budgets.
Financially the advantages of ambient temperature shipping and storage are huge. There are substantial savings involved in ambient temperature shipping in comparison to cold chain, including the costs associated with packing materials, dry ice, cold packs, specialized shipping providers, refrigerated trucks and the certified labor necessary to handle temperature-sensitive materials. Storing samples in industrial freezers is also significantly more expensive than being able to keep them at room temperature.
The cost savings created by ambient shipping and storage can be applied elsewhere in your research—more samples can be collected and the need to cut corners in your research design may be eliminated. Avoiding cold chain can also allow studies to move forward where paying for frozen shipping and storage would not be feasible. This is an even greater benefit in underdeveloped areas, where cold shipping and freezers might not be available or may be prohibitively expensive. The use of ambient temperature shipping and storage results in a substantial increase in the flexibility of your research study’s budget.
From a logistical standpoint, the benefits of ambient temperature are clear. There is no need for specialized labour or handling anywhere. Some shipping firms do not handle cold chain shipments and for a lengthy trip, dry ice shippers may have to set up check points during airport layovers to refill dry ice packs. Shipments have to be received during specific hours when trained technicians are on hand to immediately move the samples to freezers. The packages themselves are also considerably larger when dry ice or cold packs are involved, meaning that fewer samples can be shipped on each truck or plane.
If samples can be stored at room temperature and the collection kits have a lengthy shelf life, you have the most flexibility. Collected samples may be set aside if you have more time-sensitive projects to work on or if you need to wait for grant money to arrive. Long-term room temperature sample storage gives you the freedom to batch shipments and to work on your own timetable.
Using ambient temperature shipping and storage can also greatly reduce complexity in the laboratory. The complications in the lab associated with frozen fecal samples, for example, can be substantial. Solid and frozen fecal biospecimens must be thawed or chipped away to attain material for analysis. Ambient temperature samples can be easily liquefied to facilitate processing. The process of freezing and thawing samples prior to use is a time-exhausting process that can lead to inexact and irreproducible samples and impact downstream results.
Unpredictable difficulties can also arise during cold storage. If there are unexpected delays in your research resulting in a build up of unprocessed samples, then freezer space can be at a premium. Even more concerning is the possibility of power loss when samples may have to be moved or could be damaged. A McGill biobanking survey found that 50% of researchers polled had experienced between 1 and 20 power failures in the preceding five years that required biospecimens to be moved while 25% of respondents had lost samples at least once in the past five years due to a power failure. This illustrates that aside from the financial costs of using samples that require freezing, there is also a danger that samples will be wasted and have to be recollected. This is not a concern using products that stabilize samples at room temperature. If it is a requirement that samples are kept in freezers, they should be extensively tested in freeze-thaw scenarios to ensure that they will remain suitable for analysis in the event of power loss or if a freezer breaks down.
Unfortunately many researchers remain unaware that room temperature sample storage is an option. The aforementioned biobanking survey found that only 14% of respondents were familiar with ambient temperature biobanking of DNA. This means that a significant number of researchers could be reducing costs and complexity in their research but are not aware of this possibility.
We have discussed some of the many benefits of shipping and storing samples at ambient temperature, but they only scratch the surface of the actual power and freedom this enables. Imagine no constraints in terms of where your laboratory needs to be and the ability to collect and ship samples anywhere in the world. Sample donors are not required to travel to a clinic as collections can be made in donors’ homes or remote locations and mailed to a laboratory for analysis. You can procure and analyze as many samples as you choose, and your study can be conducted on your own schedule.
Consider Amazon, the online retailer. Amazon offices exist in Seattle; amazon.com serves the world. The Internet provides the capacity for amazon.com to serve its customers across the globe. This is analogous to what is offered by ambient temperature shipping and storage. Traditionally in a health sciences research study, samples would have to be collected geographically very close to the lab and then rushed to get analyzed or put on ice for transport or be collected in a centralized location. With long-term stability at ambient temperature, samples can be collected anywhere in the world and shipped back to your laboratory without the need for cold chain. There is no immediate rush to use the samples in your research—stabilized products allow for the flexibility to conduct research studies throughout the world, at any scale, and according to the schedule that best suits you. Much like how the Internet provides the platform for Amazon to sell their goods worldwide, samples that can be shipped and stored at ambient temperature allow you to carry out your research studies at a practically unlimited scope. The Internet has given commerce a global reach; ambient temperature shipping and storage have done the same for genetic research. DNA Genotek products enable this with our unique stabilizing chemistries. This patented technology provides the ability to ship and store biospecimens for lengthy periods of time without the need for cold packs, dry ice or freezers. What is the ultimate power of ambient temperature shipping and storage? Elimination of the barriers impeding your research and the ability to conduct your studies without tight limitations based on budget, temperature and time.