National Clinical Cytology Biobank

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A unique national biobank at Karolinska Institutet (KI) – the only one in the Nordic region! The aim of the Clinical Cytology Biobank is to provide research groups with high quality cytological cell samples.

All women in Sweden between the ages of 23 and 60 are invited to take part in the cervical cancer screening programme. Every year, 700,000 cell samples are collected as a result. Clinical cytology was chosen as the field for the pilot project to develop a national standardised platform for the long-term storage of gynaecological cell samples.  The BBMRI, BioBanking and Molecular Resource Infrastructure of Sweden, is a publicly funded organisation located at KI. The BBMRI has funded the development and implementation of the Clinical Cytology Biobank.

The Clinical Cytology Biobank was opened in August 2011. Since then all of the cytological cell samples from the gynaecological health checks performed by Stockholm County Council have been stored. The Clinical Cytology Biobank was installed in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Karolinska University Hospital, Huddinge.


The aim of the Clinical Cytology Biobank is to create an important resource for research. The Clinical Cytology Biobank want to encourage research groups to use the biobank's cell samples in their projects. The biobank's cell samples are quality assured. 

Number of stored cell samples:

2011: 66 764
2012: 19 535
2013: 81 283
2014 (to May) 8100
Totalt: 175 682

We can assume that the samples are from unique women, that they are representative of the Swedish populace and that their age distribution is within the screening programme's interval (23-60 years).

National reachHär finns biobanker i Sverige

As a result of coverage all across the country, the Clinical Cytology Biobank is called "the National Cytology Biobank".

Ten of the twenty county councils have now implemented the Clinical Cytology Biobank at their laboratories and more than 60 per cent of liquid-based cytological cell samples are processed for biobanking across the whole of Sweden. 


Processing method for the long-term storage of samples

Robot biobankenThe previous analysis method that involved a smear of cells has been swapped for what is known as liquid-based cytology (LBC). This provides a more reliable and faster diagnosis, ensures the stability of DNA, RNA and proteins, and leaves the cells intact. A great benefit for the investigation of different diagnostic markers - even when the samples have been stored for many years.

The Clinical Cytology Biobank was developed in collaboration with the Clinical Pathology/Cytology Department at Karolinska University Laboratory. The liquid-based cell samples are usually collected in unwieldy containers with a volume of about 20 ml, which cannot be stored efficiently. The proposal for a national biobank solution is an automatic aliquoting and concentration of the cell sample in 0.6 ml storage tubes that are stored at -25°C. The cell samples do not freeze at -25°C.

Sample quality

The Clinical Cytology Biobank is accredited by SWEDAC as a part of the Clinical Pathology/Cytology Department at Karolinska University Hospital. The Cytology Biobank is registered with the designation "clinical cytology cell sample collection" and is a part of the Karolinska biobank organisation and is governed by the Karolinska biobank's regulations on the withdrawal and issuing of samples. 

The sample quality is analysed twice per year for DNA and cell morphology. The biobank's samples are validated following each change in the biobank system for cellular diagnostics, DNA and human papilloma virus (HPV) analysis.  


The biobank uses a conventional IT system, LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) to check the automatic sample management process, storage and traceability.

Withdrawal and issuing of biobank samples

The Clinical Cytology Biobank is governed by the Karolinska biobank's regulations


For more information and advice on applications, please contact the director of the Clinical Cytology Biobank.:

Nasrin Perskvist
Clinical Cytology Biobank director
Telefon: 08-524 880 62


A complex intervention for workflow enhancement at the Swedish cervical cytology biobank.
Perskvist N, Björklund C, Dillner J
Biopreserv Biobank 2014 Feb;12(1):69-73

The Swedish Cervical Cytology Biobank: Sample Handling and Storage Process
Nasrin Perskvist,Ingrid Norman, Carina Eklund, Jan-Eric Litton and Joakim Dillner