5 Safe Storage Temperatures for Biological Samples


Maintaining the appropriate storage conditions for pharmaceuticals and biological materials is of the utmost importance. In fact, it only takes a temperature fluctuation of about 2°C to substantially damage a pharmaceutical product. In order to avoid negatively impacting the integrity of a pharmaceutical sample, a savvy sample management plan should be undertaken. Whether the substances require short-term accommodation at room temperature or something more long-term to provide better cold shipping solutions, it is essential to recognize what levels of cold storage are appropriate in different scenarios. Read ahead to discover five ranges of temperature-controlled biostorage, and learn how each level serves its own distinct purpose.

Cryogenic Freezer Storage (-150°C to -190°C)

Cryogenic Freezer Storage is the touchstone when it comes to the extended storage of biological materials. Since all levels of biological activity are suspended when exposed to temperatures this low, this type of storage is ideal for items that need to be collected and preserved over an extended period of time. Cryogenic storage is also optimal for those specimens that cannot be suspended in a preservative while in transit. Though this level of low-temperature storage can be effective in the right circumstances, it is important to adhere to the freezing and unthawing procedures that safeguard the integrity of the sample.

Ultra Low Freezer Storage (-80°C)

At -80°C, Ultra-Low Freezer Storage can also be a fitting option when it comes to the long-term cold storage of biological samples. Unlike Cryogenic Freezer Storage, Ultra-Low Freezer Storage still allows for some biological processes, while simultaneously preventing the breakdown of a range of biological molecules that include nucleic acids and proteins. Like materials stored cryogenically, specimens kept in Ultra-Low Freezer Storage require a slow freezing process of around 1°C per minute, as well as a quick thawing process. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , recent research has shown that even setting these Ultra-Low Freezers to -70° instead of -80° can maintain the proper storage conditions for pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, reducing the temperature by ten degrees can drastically cut down on energy use and consumption.

Freezer Storage (-20°C)

For the short-term storage of a pharmaceutical sample that is unstable at warmer temperatures, standard freezer cold storage is appropriate. Typically, samples stored in this temperature range are suspended in a solution before freezing. When using this level of freezer storage, examine the appliance to ensure it does not have a frost-free cycle feature, as this type of cycle can induce periods of thawing intended to prevent frost buildup.

Refrigerated Storage (2°C to 5°C)

Although Refrigerated Storage is not recommended as a long-term solution for cultivating biological materials, this type of cold storage is appropriate for the short-term accommodation of commonly-used biological substances like antibodies and enzymes. Since these reagents are utilized recurrently, more extreme freezer storage would require frequent thawing and refreezing, which could negatively impact the integrity of the materials. Therefore, in instances like this, refrigerated storage is optimal.

Room Temperature Storage (15°C to 27°C)

Though not ideal for many cases, Room Temperature Storage can be appropriate under certain circumstances. For example, biological compounds that have been preserved in another substance like Bouin’s solution, formalin, or paraffin can fare well when stored at room temperature in a climate-controlled room. If molecular data is needed, it is best to avoid this temperature storage level.

To protect the integrity of biostorage materials, it’s imperative to understand the functions of various levels of temperature-controlled storage. Storage conditions for pharmaceuticals can impact whether a sample is damaged during storage, whether it can survive the transportation process, or even whether molecules can be extracted after thawing. Keep your storage conditions for pharmaceuticals at optimal levels, by considering the five categories of temperature ranges required for different types of materials.

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