July 17, 2018 – The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in veterinary medicine. Each year, data and biological samples (such as blood, urine and hair) are collected from enrolled dogs that will be used for current and future research projects. But what happens to those samples after they are collected, and why are they so important?
One Dog’s Poop is A Scientist’s Gold
Once collected, the staff at each participating veterinary hospital starts preparing the samples for laboratory analysis and storage. A portion of the blood collected is allowed to clot, and then the sample is spun in a centrifuge to separate red and white cells from serum, the fluid part of blood.
Once the serum is separated, the veterinary team carefully packages the samples and sends them to two different locations. A portion of the blood, urine and feces are sent to our platinum partner, ANTECH Laboratories, for immediate analysis. These tests are familiar to most dog owners and include a red and white blood cell count, electrolyte analysis, urine examination and a check for internal parasites. The study veterinarian relays this information to the dog’s owner and, if all is normal, no further testing is needed.
A second shipment of specimens is sent to Fisher BioServices, one of the premier U.S.-based biological storage facilities. Once the samples arrive at Fisher, they’re split into smaller volumes for storage.
Extreme Cold Storage
Each specimen is stored under different conditions. For example, hair, feces, and nail samples are stored at -4o F (about the same temperature as a typical refrigerator freezer). Whole blood samples – meaning blood that wasn’t allowed to clot – are stored in special low temperature freezers at a chilly -112oF, and serum is stored in liquid nitrogen at a mind-boggling -321oF!
The team at Fisher carefully monitors each storage unit to ensure that samples are kept at a constant temperature, and each month they provide an inventory of all our samples for our records. Once in storage, our samples can be held in pristine condition for decades.
The Foundation tracks each dog’s samples every step of the way. Our study team also records information about each sample, providing a double check on the process. It’s not easy keeping track of an average of 20,000 samples per year, but it is well worth the trouble! These samples will provide the raw materials for research that will improve canine health and advance veterinary medicine for years to come.