CLASS Lab Tour

CLASS Lab Tour

Founded in 1985 as part of the Reproductive Sciences Program, the School of Public Health’s Central Ligand Assay Satellite Services (CLASS) laboratory provides sample analyses for human blood and urine samples; research support services, such as custom specimen-collection kits; and repository services for research studies throughout the state of Michigan and across the globe.

Among the many studies to use the CLASS lab is the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), a multi-site longitudinal investigation of the health of women during the menopausal transition and beyond. CLASS also provides services for both academic and clinical research studies of new investigational drugs, and for pathologists, epidemiologists, and cancer and other research professionals from the University of Michigan and as far away as Ukraine.

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  1. At the heart of the facility are 45 ultra-low-temperature chest freezers, each of which holds up to 32,000 blood, urine, or tissue samples. The freezers are set at a steady -80° C and hold samples for as long as 30 years.
  2. CLASS staff members Jing Shue and Karen Rigel prepare custom sample collection kits for use by research teams. Each kit is designed in collaboration with clients, according to their specific research protocols, and contains a set of serialized, bar-coded sample collection vials tied to bar-coded forms, for easy data entry.
  3. Through secured access to the lab’s proprietary database and server clusters, clients can initiate and track specimen shipments, check sample status, review specimen assay histories, examine repository inventories, and download the lab’s assay catalog and standard operating procedures.
  4. Refrigerators hold reagents and other materials needed for running analyses. As CLASS lab director Dan McConnell puts it, “It’s like the raw ingredients in a recipe for brownies. The refrigerator is where you’d store the eggs.”
  5. Using a chemiluminescent analyzer, Russ Possley conducts hormone assays, or tests, on blood samples. In the past 15 years, the lab has performed more than 1,000,000 individual assays, primarily of serum and urine reproductive hormones, cytokines, and growth factors.
  6. CLASS staff member Jim Hall checks in new samples. At present, the CLASS lab holds approximately 100,000 samples for the Study of Women Across the Nation (SWAN) and another 200,000 samples for additional studies. The lab has processed more than two million serum and urine samples for SWAN alone.
  7. A centrifuge spins blood samples as part of the sample-processing procedures.
  8. Sara Kitzsteiner pipettes blood serum into micro-assay plates for analysis. A state-of-the-art computerized sample-handling system and barcoded labels track individual samples from collection through analysis and storage, and ensure both confidentiality and positive identification throughout the process.
  9. Water-purification tanks provide ultra-pure water to be used in preparing reagents, buffers, and glassware-washing.

CLASS has been accredited by the College of American Pathologists and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act since 2004.