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Keywords:

  • flow cytometry;
  • occupational health;
  • biohazards;
  • cell sorting;
  • biosafety;
  • aerosol containment

Abstract

Background:

Cell sorting of viable biological specimens has become very prevalent in laboratories involved in basic and clinical research. As these samples can contain infectious agents, precautions to protect instrument operators and the environment from hazards arising from the use of sorters are paramount. To this end the International Society of Analytical Cytology (ISAC) took a lead in establishing biosafety guidelines for sorting of unfixed cells (Schmid et al., Cytometry 1997;28:99–117). During the time period these recommendations have been available, they have become recognized worldwide as the standard practices and safety precautions for laboratories performing viable cell sorting experiments. However, the field of cytometry has progressed since 1997, and the document requires an update.

Methods:

Initially, suggestions about the document format and content were discussed among members of the ISAC Biosafety Committee and were incorporated into a draft version that was sent to all committee members for review. Comments were collected, carefully considered, and incorporated as appropriate into a draft document that was posted on the ISAC web site to invite comments from the flow cytometry community at large. The revised document was then submitted to ISAC Council for review. Simultaneously, further comments were sought from newly-appointed ISAC Biosafety committee members.

Results:

This safety standard for performing viable cell sorting experiments was recently generated. The document contains background information on the biohazard potential of sorting and the hazard classification of infectious agents as well as recommendations on (1) sample handling, (2) operator training and personal protection, (3) laboratory design, (4) cell sorter set-up, maintenance, and decontamination, and (5) testing the instrument for the efficiency of aerosol containment.

Conclusions:

This standard constitutes an updated and expanded revision of the 1997 biosafety guideline document. It is intended to provide laboratories involved in cell sorting with safety practices that take into account the enhanced hazard potential of high-speed sorting. Most importantly, it states that droplet-based sorting of infectious or hazardous biological material requires a higher level of containment than the one recommended for the risk group classification of the pathogen. The document also provides information on safety features of novel instrumentation, new options for personal protective equipment, and recently developed methods for testing the efficiency of aerosol containment. Published 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.