Decades of work on leukemia at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, one of Europe’s most prestigious medical universities, has been lost.
The samples from the study, conducted by the institute in the capital Stockholm, were stored in a freezer system powered by liquid nitrogen.
But the system, which operates at -190 degrees Celsius, malfunctioned on December 22-23. The university said on Monday that the samples became unusable after a technical problem with the system that transfers liquid nitrogen to 16 refrigerated tanks.
It was stated that the tanks can operate for 4 more days in case of a malfunction, while the samples were lost due to the failure to solve the problem in time.
“This happened at probably the worst conceivable time in Sweden, just one day before Christmas Eve,” said Matti Sallberg, dean of the institute’s southern campus.
In the cooler failure, leukemia samples collected from patients for nearly 30 years were lost, the dean said. “They were also planned to be used for future studies,” he said, pointing out that the samples play an important role in large-scale research.
Sallberg said millions of Swedish Krona worth of samples were destroyed, but did not give a clear figure for the losses.
Swedish media reported that the value of the unusable samples amounted to 500 million crowns.
Stating that they do not think the problem was caused by any sabotage, Sallberg said that an investigation into the malfunction has been launched and the police are continuing their investigations.