Research samples need special care
Wednesday, Aug 26th 2015

Making sure research specimens are stored correctly is a key responsibility of any research facility. Improper handling of these materials can have extremely disastrous results, chief among them the halting of further research. A perfect example of what can go wrong in a research environment is the freezer fiasco a Harvard-affiliated hospital ran into back in 2012. Due to a malfunctioning high temperature alarm, 54 brain samples that were meant to be kept at -80 degrees Celsius were discovered to have actually been at 7 degrees. Thankfully these samples could still be used for specific kinds of studies, however, it remained unclear if the samples could be used for all neurological research. 

Although this particular story has a relatively happy ending, the message here is clear: If an institution as prestigious as Harvard can make a mistake like this, anyone can. As such, proper humidity and temperature monitoring protocols must be followed for research specimens. 

What kind of protocols are there?
To begin, it's important to note that there is a specific temperature range for room temperature. What many consider to be a colloquial phrase has a very exact range. A paper put out by the World Health Organization and PATH stated that controlled room storage temperature data should be in the range of 15 to 25 degrees C. Making sure a research room is within this range is extremely important, as any fluctuation out of this range might be disastrous for certain specimen. A room temperature sensor may be needed in order to keep a room at optimal temperature. 

Another important factor to specimen care is the humidity of the room in which samples are being stored or studied. The American Museum of Natural History has specific guidelines when it comes to the humidity at which specimen are kept. They state that for the majority of subjects, the relative humidity of the room needs to stay as close to 50 percent as humanly possible. Swings between 40 and 60 percent are acceptable, however, not advisable. That being said, other objects may have more specific needs. The AMNH also stated that samples with metal components should be kept at RH levels that are as low as the facility can manage. 

With all of this in mind, any facility with specimens that have specific environmental needs should absolutely invest in a high temperature alarm. Products like the Watchdog 100 can keep a close eye on both the humidity and temperature data of a room. And, if the worst is to happen and the specimen is exposed to a temperature or humidity outside its range, the Watchdog 100 will alert personnel via a built-in text messaging system. 

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