Have you encountered this sample tracking scenario in your laboratory?
A post-doc from two years ago collected a few dozen samples that would be really valuable to re-analyze with your new lab toy. But where are those samples? You could consider trying to regenerate the samples rather than finding them in your freezer. But then you realize you don’t have that strain of mice anymore, so you go searching.
First, you go to their old notebooks and see if you can track them down. After searching in several notebooks, you find that they stored them in the -80C in a box called “My samples”. So, you look through your freezers to finally find the box, and see that they are labelled with a date (yay!) and a numeric value 1-40. You go back to the lab notebook (which one was it again?!) and map these numeric values to the information stored in the notebook.
The scenario above is a concise example of how the right sample tracking procedures and sample management software could save time and resources.
Sample Tracking in the Lab
Accurate and efficient sample tracking is an important function of all well-organized labs. In order to identify, use and understand the context of a sample after it’s been collected, lab staff should at a minimum collect and notate the following information:
- the properties of the sample (name, unique ID, where it was derived from, volume, etc.)
- the location of the sample
- any activities or assays that the sample has been a part of
- the current status of a sample at any given time
Many labs are now capturing this information electronically, whether it’s via a spreadsheet or with a sample management system. Thoughtfully designed systems and procedures are key to making sample tracking an easy and efficient process, however, designating resources upfront for these efforts can be difficult to prioritize for some labs.
Tracking Samples with LabKey Sample Manager
LabKey Sample Manager is an intuitively designed sample management application that brings ease and efficiency to sample tracking. The application has various features to assist in sample tracking including:
Sample Timeline – Track chain-of-custody and events for a samples such as assays performed, volume changes, and inclusion in workflow jobs
Sample Sources – Assign sources to a sample to better understand the broader picture of the sample within the laboratory, experiment or study
Sample Types – Organize samples by type and add data fields for that type to describe attributes of samples for easy tracking.
Unique Sample IDs and Naming Patterns – Each sample in the system is required to have a unique name/id within its sample type. You can either choose the unique ID yourself or have it generated by the system using a naming pattern that can be customized by an administrator.
Tools for Tracking Sample Lineage – Sample Manager includes a lineage graph that provides a visual representation of the parentage of samples as well a lineage grid can be helpful when viewing lengthy lineages or derivation histories.