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Primary Cultures Packing And Shipping: Vital Tips

Establishing primary cultures is an important tool in research. Primary cultures closely represent the tissue or organ from which they were isolated making them suitable in vitro systems to study the mechanisms or the effects of chemicals/drugs on the cells. They also lack the challenge with immortalized cultures that are “transformed”-making the observations in them questionable in the context of what happens in vivo.

Such vital primary cultures can be sent across to other institutes or companies for research. When shipping primary cultures, a few checklists are given below that can aid the planning and execution:

The first aspect is compliance with different regulations. These rules cover not only the laws of the country but also that of the carrier service. The updated rules prescribed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) can be accessed online to guide shipping.  Also one should ensure that the papers concerning the distribution, export and “how to use” or “respect to use” are well agreed upon.

Many lab supply companies provide insulated boxes to transport frozen vials of Stem Cells. These boxes according to research can be filled with solid CO2-that maintains the conditions for 4 days. Instead of this system, a Dry Shipper can be utilized. These containers have liquid nitrogen in a cryo-absorbant material that prevents the possibility of spillage. Based on the brand, the cells can be stored for up to 10 days below −150 °C (Geraghty et al, 2014).

Important Points For Primary Cultures While Packing Are:

  1. Use the model or make of the packing container that is within the regulations of IATA.
  2. The cell vials should be sealed properly or ensured to be gas-tight to prevent the entry of CO2 into the vial. This is undesirable as the pH of the medium is lowered.
  3. A vent in the box should be present that can allow the escape of gas.
  4. The correct and appropriate label should be present outside.
  5. Make sure to use a Carrier or Courier service approved by National authorities.

In the case of the transport of cells that aggregate in suspension, 2-ml plastic freezing vials can be used. The cells can be placed in the vial and adding the medium drop-by-drop up to 1.5 ml. The vials can be packed in a second container or bag to prevent leakage and sent in padded enveloped. When shipping adherent cells growing in flasks, rather than sending across the flask filled with medium that can cause contamination as the medium touches the neck of the flask or leakage; few drops of medium can be enough to last for 72 hours. This keeps the cells moist and prevents any froth formation.

A Few Practical Tips For Primary Culture Are Given Below:

  1. Sending the packed cells on Monday increases the chances of the cultures reaching their destination on a weekday.
  2. The receiver should be notified of the cell packing system and containers used. The instructions of the medium and how the cells should be processed once received should be communicated.
  3. Both the receiver and carrier contact details should be shared to address the collection details. Making sure that the receiver also has a copy of the bills of the shipping references to address any possible unwanted issues.


Geraghty, R. J., Capes-Davis, A., Davis, J. M., Downward, J., Freshney, R. I., Knezevic, I., Lovell-Badge, R., Masters, J. R., Meredith, J., Stacey, G. N., Thraves, P., Vias, M., & Cancer Research UK (2014). Guidelines for the use of cell lines in biomedical research. British journal of cancer111(6), 1021–1046.

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