Come in Out of the Cold: Alternatives to Freezing for Microbial Biorepositories

Erica Isaacs, Monika Schmelz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Biorepositories are “libraries” in which biospecimens, bacteria, or DNA and RNA extracts are stored for either clinical or research purposes. Such specimens enable modern molecular-based research and could support method verification, validation, quality control, and, in some cases, proficiency testing in clinical laboratories. Cryopreservation of extracted nucleic acids ensures the stability and longevity of DNA and RNA from patient samples, with the most common methods used for long-term storage of samples being the use of −80°C freezers or liquid nitrogen. Frozen biospecimens are crucial for translational research as they contain well-preserved nucleic acids and protein; however, traditional −80°C freezers consume both energy and space, with costs of maintenance and repairs reaching thousands of dollars annually to freeze and protect biospecimens. Additionally, liquid nitrogen is hazardous to work with, and failure to maintain adequate levels in storage containers can result in loss of specimens. Recently, new room temperature, or “green,” technology has been developed for dry storage of nucleic acids, ultimately reducing costs in terms of energy output and carbon footprint. This review compares and contrasts the use of dry-storage infrastructure with that of freezing samples, in terms of its use in clinical microbiology and highlights considerations to be made if implementing the technologies. Storage alternatives to freezers that equal or exceed their performance with regard to sample preservation and protection against degradation while at the same time reducing space requirements, costs, and energy consumption could be a financial and operational benefit if properly deployed and characterized. Perhaps it is time for laboratories to consider getting molecular quality control material and remnant extracted samples in from the cold and to evaluate the use of dry, room temperature storage technology for use in our microbial biorepositories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Microbiology Newsletter
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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