Good Lab Practices for Pluripotent Stem Cell Line Handling under COVID-19 Working Conditions

Are you and your colleagues working in the lab across multiple shifts in order to maintain social distancing during the pandemic? If so, here are some ideas that you could think about implementing to enhance cell line handling and time management.

Cell Line Handling:

  • Segregate reagents and consumables
    Ensure all operators have their own aliquots of reagents and consumables. Maintaining separate aliquots of media, passaging reagents, buffers and tip boxes greatly reduces the risk of cross-contamination.

  • Choose flexible media
    Are there media options for your cell lines that reduce cell line handling? For example, mTeSR™ Plus for the maintenance of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) allows for a more flexible and reduced feeding schedule, thus reducing cell line handling and maximizing time spent on other tasks.

  • Restrict the number of operators per set of experiments
    This practice is important so that if a case of contamination is linked to a person, only a single set of experiments are at risk.

  • Segregate incubators
    If possible, ensure that a designated set of operators working on a designated set of experiments have their own incubator. Again, this reduces the risk of spreading a possible contamination across multiple experiments within the lab.

  • Lab coats
    One of the biggest culprits for cell line contamination is the lab coat sleeve! Change your lab coat on a very regular basis. Once per week, if possible. If available, disposable lab coat sleeves can also help reduce the risk of contamination from this source., or tape your sleeves and tuck the ends of the sleeves into your gloves.

  • One cell line per workstation
    In an effort to work more efficiently, operators might consider working on multiple cell lines simultaneously at a biosafety cabinet workstation. This is extremely risky and cross contamination of cell lines can easily happen with this practice. Ensure you are only working with one cell line at a time per workstation and ensure decontamination of the workstation before and after handling each cell line.

  • Cell banking
    In spite of all these good practices, if contamination occurs or if experiments have to be stopped, ensure you have built a cell bank ahead of time to be able to restart from the same initial material. Adapt your strategy depending on your cell lines and their capacity to be frozen and thawed. Some resources are available to help you choose the most suitable one:

Time Management:

  • Collaborate with colleagues on different shifts
    Hastiness and lab work don’t mix well. Have an agreement that if you don’t finish something in your morning shift, your colleagues in the afternoon shift can pick it up and continue.To ensure the best team work and continuity during your experiments, do not hesitate to use our lab reopening and lab bench organization checklist, as well as our planning template.

  • Plan, Plan, Plan
    Now that many companies have rolled out lab shifts, it is even more important to clearly plan your experiments so that your time can be used most efficiently. However, be careful. Planning to do too much in an effort to be more time efficient will often result in errors which will cost you time in the long term.

  • Make Use of Incubation Times
    In the past, incubation times were often used for unscheduled coffee breaks, checking social media or planning events later in the evening. Now, to get the most out of your time in the lab, plan to use your incubation times wisely. For example, prepare for the next step in your experiment, prepare the next medium you’ll be using, or get your lab chores completed. During shift work, it’s important that you maximize your time without compromising the quality of your work.

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