Decades of research went down the drain on Saturday after a Swedish institute's freezer broke down

The work of researchers at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute went awry on Saturday after samples collected over decades were destroyed following a freezer failure during the winter holidays, The Guardian reports.

The samples are said to be worth around £37m. Photo: Archive

The samples were kept in tanks cooled with liquid nitrogen, at a temperature of -190 degrees Celsius. The Karolisnka Institute is the host of the Nobel Assembly, which is tasked with nominating a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

The incident allegedly took place between December 22 and 23. According to the cited source, 16 cryogenic tanks were left without liquid nitrogen for five days, although they could function normally for four days without being supplied with this substance. However, it appears that the fifth day without liquid nitrogen resulted in the destruction of samples that came from several institutions.

It probably happened at the absolute worst time imaginable in Sweden, just the day before Christmas Eve.”Matti Sallberg, dean of the Institute's southern campus, said on Monday.

According to some media institutions, the samples in question were worth around 37 million pounds. However, Sallberg noted that no official estimate of the value of the destroyed samples had been made, but added that it was several million.

The most affected are those involved in leukemia research, they have been collecting samples from patients for 30 years”he added.

An internal investigation was launched within the university and, despite the fact that there were no signs of sabotage, the incident was also reported to the police.

The samples were for research purposes, so they would not affect the care of any current patients, but they were to be used in future research.

These are samples that have been the subject of extensive studies and there were plans for more studiesSallberg said.