One of the challenges of studying the biochemistry of plasma is that it must remain frozen until ready to use. This presents a logistics problem- how to prep and freeze samples within an hour of the blood draw, and how to move them from the clinic to the lab without thawing?
Most samples get shipped across the country on dry ice. Dry ice doesn't melt to a liquid, but it goes directly to CO2 gas that dissipates into the air. In the closed environment of an airplane, the rise in CO2 concentration would wreak havoc on pilot and the other travelers. This is why dry ice is considered a hazard, and is strictly regulated.
The other problem with dry ice is that 10 pounds of it only lasts a few days. So, it means shipping a heavy box using the MOST EXPENSIVE shipping services available, via overnight or expedited couriers.
So, what's the alternative? Liquid nitrogen vapor shippers!
Liquid nitrogen is another option for shipping frozen samples. Modern LN2 vapor shippers have an absorbent material packed inside that absorbs the liquid nitrogen and renders it completely safe for shipping. The best part is that the shippers have holding times ranging between 17-32 days! This means that shippers can be dispatched directly to a clinic or a patient, allowing the recipients to load their samples and return the shipper back to the lab.
The round-trip cost of a LN2 vapor shipper is less than the cost of one-way overnight on dry ice. Best of all, the long holding times in a LN2 vapor shipper provides an extra margin of safety. This means that bad weather delays, or an extra day held up at customs (for international shipping) will be less likely to ruin a sample.
Genius Diagnostics is conducting a few practice runs with LN2 vapor shippers. We only have two of them so far, one for domestic use and the other for international shipping. We're guessing that the cardboard outer boxes will get a little beat up after a few excursions. But if this works, then it means that patients from anywhere on the globe will be able to sponsor their own biological samples for medical research.
This is a day to mark for posterity!