Flow cytometry is a powerful technique for characterizing immune responses to vaccines, immunotherapeutic drugs, and other clinical interventions. But many preclinical and clinical studies may take place at sites that are not in the same location as the flow cytometry lab.

That’s why it’s critical to determine how clinical specimens should be collected, processed, stored, and shipped to assure that cells will be viable and abundant enough for flow cytometry analysis.

Consider these factors when coordinating logistics for your next flow cytometry experiment.

  1. Sample tubes: Different types of blood collection tubes are made for specific needs. SST tubes contain a gel separator for separating serum from blood cells, and a variety of different tube types exist that contain different anticoagulants such as sodium citrate or EDTA. CPT tubes are specialized for separating mononuclear cells from whole blood. You will need to determine which tube type works the best for the cell types you are planning to study.
  2. Shipping and storage conditions: The cell type and the distance to the flow cytometry lab both dictate the type of shipping conditions that you will use. Most lymphocytes can be isolated from whole blood and can be shipped and stored as frozen samples, but certain cell types like dendritic cells lose viability when frozen and can only be shipped and stored under cold conditions.  You will need to evaluate the viability of your cells of interest under different storing and shipping conditions to determine which method provides greatest viability.
  3. Staining stability: Some cell samples can be stained as fresh samples and then shipped for flow cytometry analysis but the staining panel and fluorochromes dictate the stability of staining and ability to ship pre-stained samples for analysis.
  4. Flow cytometry site: If you are working with a flow cytometry lab with a single location, you may be limited in how far you can ship samples to guarantee viability. In contrast, if you are working with a contract research organization (CROs) that has multiple global lab sites, you improve the chances that your samples will get to a nearby site and remain viable.

These factors will help guide your decision-making framework for your next preclinical or clinical study. Working with experienced CROs can improve your outcomes as they are experienced with handling many different types of samples shipped under various conditions.