The blood samples

The blood sample provided for the study will be used to identify genetic and hormonal factors that may be associated with breast cancer risk.

When the blood samples arrive at the  Generations Study Laboratory they are processed immediately and then stored at -180˚C in liquid nitrogen for long-term preservation.

Blood processing 

The blood samples for the study are processed by Nick Orr and Kasia Tomczyk in a special laboratory at the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research in Chelsea.

(1) Centrifuge

When received, the blood samples are spun in a centrifuge to separate their different components. 

(2) Working on the MAPI machines

Using a machine called a MAPI, the samples are mechanically drawn into “straws” in volumes of 0.5 millilitres. Approximately 35 straws are prepared from the blood samples from each participant.

(3) The straws

The straws are placed into triangular tubes; different colour tubes are used for each individual. These triangular tubes are then put inside "goblets" for long term storage.

(4) Freezer storage

The samples are stored overnight in a freezer set at -80oC.  This freezes the samples quickly.

(5) Storage in liquid nitrogen

The samples are then transferred for long term storage into tanks containing liquid nitrogen.

(6) Retrieving blood samples

A computer system keeps track of exactly where in the liquid nitrogen each sample is stored.  This means that they can be easily retrieved for analysis.