Biospecimen Science of Blood for Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cell (PBMC) Functional Applications

Betsou F, Gaignaux A, Ammerlaan W, Norris P J, Stone M.

Current Pathobiology Reports, pages 1-11, May 2019.


Purpose of Review

Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) are used in a wide variety of preclinical assays. Preanalytical variations can have a devastating impact on the results. In this review, we list critical preanalytical factors for PBMC-based assays to develop awareness and orientation to the types of sample preparation and storage that one may consider employing.

Recent Findings

Critical factors during blood collection are the blood collection tube and anticoagulant, possible stabilizer used, and the pre-isolation blood storage temperature and time. During PBMC isolation, critical factors are the isolation method, density gradient or magnetic sorting, use of barrier, possible RBC lysis, and centrifuge type. During cryopreservation, attention is needed for the cryomedium type and temperature, freezing device and program, cell concentration, and the long-term storage temperature. During the thawing process, the thawing procedure/device used and wash medium temperature are critical.


To avoid biased results in PBMC assays, these critical preanalytical factors must be standardized and/or documented. Additionally, participation in external quality assurance programs is strongly recommended.