University freezer breaks, decades of research destroyed

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University freezer breaks, decades of research destroyed

The samples were stored with liquid nitrogen at -190°C at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. They had an estimated value of around 40 million euros.

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Bad blow for the Karolinska Istitutet in Stockholm, Sweden, where the research samples collected over decades were destroyed due to a breakdown in one of the freezers during the Christmas holidays. The institute made this known, explaining that the samples were stored in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -190°C and that, between 22 and 23 December, there was an interruption in the supply of the cryogenic liquid .

The problem affected 16 tanks which, although they could preserve their contents for four days without additional liquid nitrogen, remained without it for five , also resulting in the loss of samples from multiple institutions. “ It happened at perhaps the absolute worst time imaginable in Sweden, just a day before Christmas Eve, ” explained Matti Sällberg, dean of the southern campus of the Karolinska Istitutet. The incident was reported to the police , the university added.

According to estimates by some media, the value of the samples is around 40 million euros . Sällberg, however, indicated that no official estimate has been made at the moment, while confirming that it is most likely in the millions. “ The researchers most affected – added the Dean – are those who research leukemia, who have collected samples from patients for over 30 years” . However, all samples were not intended for patient care, but exclusively for research.

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The university has launched an internal investigation and, although there are no indications of sabotage, the police are investigating what happened. “ There is currently no indication that this is due to external actions , but the police report was compiled to cover all circumstances .”

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