What is the rationale for using cryovials instead of regular, sterile centrifuge tubes for the storage of mammalian cells?

With a good aseptic technique and without touching the cap directly, there should not be a significant risk of contamination in regular microcentrifuge tubes. Is the plastic quality fundamentally different (in terms of leaching chemicals etc)? Both kinds of tubes are usually made of polypropylene so it's not obvious how they would otherwise differ.

There may be a difference when storing things in direct contact with liquid nitrogen (as regular tubes may leak), but many cells can be stored for years in a -80°C freezer, a temperature at which most molecular biology tubes are perfectly stable.

  • $\begingroup$ I feel like the best answer here is application-specific ease of use, but I could be wrong! $\endgroup$ – CKM Dec 14 '18 at 23:57

I do not have data to back this up, but can say that from experience, cryo vials are a much better solution for storing your valuable cells. First, their plastic is thicker, meaning they’re more sturdy and can handle a deep freeze much better. The killer feature is the screw caps, which means that they will never pop open accidentally due to mishandling or temperature changes (which has happened me with samples in microcentrifuge tubes). These screw caps also allow much more efficient storage in expensive cold conditions (liquid nitrogen will be best for cells long term) and easier retrieval from boxes that are freezing cold.

Microcentrifuge tunes may suffice but cryo vials exist for a reason.

  • $\begingroup$ Although, thicker plastic is disadvantageous for flash freezing. $\endgroup$ – canadianer Dec 15 '18 at 20:14

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