The Ultimate Guide to Biospecimen Storage Best Practices


4/15/20244 min read

Storage guide for biobanks
Storage guide for biobanks

The Ultimate Guide to Biospecimen Storage Best Practices

In the diverse world of scientific research, the handling and storage of biospecimens are not merely technical necessities; they form the bedrock of experiments, studies, and crucial medical advances. Whether you're a research scientist, laboratory technician, or part of a pioneering biotech company, ensuring your biospecimen storage practices are impeccable is a non-negotiable step in the pursuit of excellence and accuracy.

This comprehensive guide explores the critical considerations and best practices for biospecimen storage, serving as your compass in navigating the challenges and complexities inherent to this essential aspect of bioscience.

Understanding Biospecimen Storage

At the core of any biological research lies the handling and preservation of biospecimens. These can range from blood and tissue samples to cells and DNA, each holding unique information that demands precise and consistent storage conditions. In a nutshell, biospecimen storage involves controlled environmental and refrigeration systems, with stringent protocols to ensure sample integrity over time.

The Importance of Proper Biospecimen Storage

Efficient storage of biospecimens is vital for several reasons. Firstly, it affects the outcome of future analysis or experiments. Preserved samples that are mishandled can lead to contamination, degradation, or an overall loss of efficacy, potentially invalidating data and damaging research integrity. Second, for biobanks and research facilities with extensive collections, the importance of proper storage cannot be overstated. With samples preserved for decades, if not centuries, storage mistakes can have a long-lasting impact on the scientific and medical community.

Factors Affecting Biospecimen Stability

To establish effective storage practices, one must fully recognize the various factors that influence biospecimen stability:


Maintaining correct temperatures is critical. A minor deviation can lead to cellular breakdown, protein degradation, and nucleic acid denaturation.


Excessive or low humidity conditions can affect the physical properties of specimens, leading to changes in texture or functionality.

Light Exposure

UV light, in particular, can cause molecular damage. In the context of biospecimen storage, this means a significant risk to DNA and RNA samples.


Even the smallest contaminants can have a significant impact on samples, especially those that are to be used in assays with high sensitivity.

Mechanical Stress

Physical disturbances, such as vibration or even opening and closing a tube cap multiple times, can damage samples, disrupt cell structures, and affect the viability of biospecimens.

Choosing the Right Storage Solutions

Selecting appropriate storage solutions is as important as the storage conditions themselves. Whether cryogenic, ultra-low temperature freezers, or standard refrigeration, the choice of equipment should align with the specific storage needs of the biospecimen.

Cryogenic Storage

Best suited for biomaterials requiring very low temperatures, such as embryonic tissues and stem cells, cryogenic freezers use liquid nitrogen or argon to create an environment below -150°C.

Ultra-Low Temperature Freezers

Ideal for long-term storage of many biological materials, they maintain a temperature range between -40°C to -86°C, protecting against aging and degradation.

Standard Refrigeration

This method meets the needs for short-term storage of most samples, typically operating within the +2°C to +8°C range.

Regulatory and Compliance Considerations

Biospecimen storage is subject to stringent regulations, which vary globally. It is crucial to stay abreast of regulatory changes and ensure compliance with all relevant standards, such as the FDA's Bioresearch Monitoring Program and ISO 20387 for biobanking.

Best Practices for Biospecimen Storage

Here, we provide a detailed overview of the best practices to optimize your biospecimen storage:


Accurate and comprehensive labeling is your first line of defense against storage errors. Label each specimen with essential information, including date of collection, type of sample, and any associated data important for future categorization and analysis.

Environmental Monitoring

Implement monitoring systems to track temperature, humidity, and other crucial factors. Automated alerts for out-of-range conditions can prevent disasters and mitigate risks.

Inventory Management

Maintain an up-to-date inventory of all biospecimens. Regular audits should be conducted, and obsolete samples must be discarded, freeing up storage space and streamlining operations.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Develop clear and concise SOPs for all aspects of biospecimen storage, handling, and retrieval. These SOPs should be regularly reviewed and updated as best practices and regulations evolve.

Regular Maintenance and Calibration

Adhere to strict schedules for the maintenance and calibration of storage equipment. A calibrated freezer or refrigerator is an effective one, ensuring the uniformity and accuracy of conditions across all stored samples.

Security and Access Control

Implement robust security measures to prevent unauthorized access to biospecimens. Only trained and authorized personnel should have access to storage areas.

Emergency Response Planning

Develop and maintain an emergency response plan. This includes a chain of command, predefined actions for different scenarios, and access to backup storage systems in case of equipment failure.

Ethical Considerations

Beyond technical and regulatory aspects, the storage of biospecimens is closely linked to ethics, especially when samples are tied to human donors. Respect donor rights and ensure that the handling and use of biospecimens comply with ethical guidelines and consent protocols.

The Future of Biospecimen Storage

The future of biospecimen storage will be shaped by technological advancements and the push for greater sustainability. Emerging solutions could include more efficient storage methods, such as dry-state or vapor-phase storage, and the development of biodegradable, non-toxic storage components.

Case Studies in Successful Biospecimen Storage

Real-world examples demonstrate how rigorous biospecimen storage practices can lead to successful research outcomes. From biobanks preserving rare genetic material to drug developers innovating new storage solutions, these case studies provide valuable insights and benchmarks for excellence.


Biospecimen storage is both an art and a science, one that demands precision, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to quality. By adhering to the best practices outlined in this guide, professionals in the field of bioscience can ensure that their valuable samples are preserved optimally, ready to unlock the mysteries of life and propel forward the frontiers of medical and scientific discovery.