A “Universal” Bio-Sample Stabilization & Preservation Medium: Simple, Low-Cost Environmental Sample Collection and Storage

Jason Harper1, Marilynn Larson2, Robert Johnston1, Kimberly Butler1, C. Jeffrey Brinker1,3

  1. Sandia National Laboratories
  2. National Strategic Research Institute
  3. University of New Mexico

We have discovered and continue to explore silica-based hybrid materials that have been successfully used for biomolecule and living cell stabilization. Our approach employs integration of biomolecules within a biocompatible silica matrix precursor solution that undergoes gelation upon mixing with the bio-sample and buffer. The resultant porous 3D matrix provides a conformal, functional bio/nano interface between the biomolecules/cells and the inorganic matrix, protecting the biomolecules/cells from mechanical and chemical stresses, providing access to oxygen and nutrients, and allowing for the expulsion of metabolic wastes.

Significantly, we recently demonstrated the first stabilization of human whole blood cells in a silica-based hybrid matrix. Further, we demonstrated the first co-stabilization of host (human whole blood) and pathogen (Bacillus anthracis) cells in an inorganic matrix. Stabilized whole blood and pathogen showed intact cell morphology. Viability assay revealed that nearly all white blood cells (87%), and 92% of B. anthracis cells, survived the encapsulation process and remained viable.

This sample stabilization medium addresses significant challenges experienced by far-forward military personal. Safe and secure collection and stabilization of biological samples would allow for accurate identification of the biological, ensuring proper treatment is received for warfighters exposed to a potential biothreat, and identification of emerging/unknown biothreats.

Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-mission laboratory managed and operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC., a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International, Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-NA0003525.