The Growing Need for Biological Storage Equipment in South Africa

The nature of biological storage and the equipment required for this purpose have changed quite dramatically during the course of the past few decades. It is no longer just a simple matter of popping items, such as body fluid specimens and swabs, into a domestic refrigerator overnight or over a weekend, to await further attention on the next working day. Certainly, this simple method of preservation would have been more than sufficient to prevent the breakdown of the heat-labile chemical components in such samples, or to ensure the continued viability of micro-organisms prior to growing them in or on various culture media. However, in order to preserve more complex cellular material for much longer periods, and perhaps to transport them, one would need far lower temperatures and rather more sophisticated apparatus.

Typically, for the storage of biological materials, such as living tissue samples, specialised apparatus and vessels designed for dispensing and storing such specimens in liquid nitrogen (LN2) are used in a far more efficient process. Using this type of equipment, temperatures as low as -190°C may be achieved with the process known as cryopreservation. The range of applications in which this super-cooling technique now plays a vital role is extensive, and continues to expand. In response, the range of equipment designed to create, maintain and monitor the ultra-low temperatures required has also undergone a parallel expansion.

Not surprisingly, most uses of cryopreservation are to be found in medicine and are required to address either the treatment or research needs within the growing range of disciplines that now make up this field. Among the most common disciplines for which biological storage facilities of this type are now used are banking of bone marrow for transplant purposes, cancer research, immunological studies and assisted reproduction. To these, one can also add some new and exciting emerging areas, such as gene therapy and the cultivation of stem cells from cord blood, dental pulp and other adult human sources that have now replaced the highly controversial use of foetal sources.

Among the world’s leading suppliers of such equipment is the US-based manufacturer known as Chart Biomedical. The company offers everything for those who need to make use of cryopreservation techniques. Their product range covers stainless steel supply systems for low pressure liquid applications; high capacity cryogenic freezers with longer holding times and lower LN2 consumption than any competing product and a wide range of dry vapour shippers to maintain optimum biological storage conditions during transit. In addition, the company also produces accessories such as racks, vial storage boxes and level alarms, as well as protective gloves and aprons.

Other specialised requirements that are suited for use in applications, such as assisted reproduction, are offered by the Cryo Bio System Group. Their products, such as specimen straws, together with those in the Chart Biomedical range are available in South Africa from IEPSA, the country’s leading importer and distributor of advanced scientific equipment for routine and research applications in fields relating to medicine, public health, pharmaceuticals and food processing.

We have more than 25 years of experience in sourcing and distributing products for use in innumerable laboratory applications, and supporting its end-users. As a result, we have also grown to become South Africa’s preferred supplier of equipment for biological storage purposes.

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