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Rising Waters Wash Away Cell Lines

A Danish cell bank scrambles to save irreplaceable cell and tissue samples in the wake of a flood.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Flooded street in Copenhagen on July 2FLICKR, SEIER+SEIER

The monsoon-style rainstorms that rocked Copenhagen earlier this month (July 2) left much of the city underwater, including the Danish Cancer Society's Biobank, where the basement filled with 2 meters of water in about 30 minutes. The flood waters infiltrated the biobank’s freezers, thawing hundreds of cell lines and tissue samples, ScienceInsider reports. Though the full extent of the damage remains unclear, workers have saved more than 1 million tissue samples—which are less vulnerable when thawed and refrozen—thanks to a refrigerated van brought in the day after the flooding, according to biobank director Jørgen Olsen.

"It doesn't matter that they were warmed up for a few hours, as long as you freeze them down again," Olsen told ScienceInsider. Among those saved are samples from a 20-year prospective study of nutrition and cancer, and Olsen said some of the...

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