Samples are the raw materials (reagents, blood, tissue, etc.) or processed derivatives of these materials that are analyzed as part of experiments.

A Sample Type (previously known as a Sample Set) is a group of samples accompanied by a suite of properties that describe shared characteristics of all samples in the group.

Uses of Sample Types

  • A sample type can be included in the description of an experiment as the inputs to a run.
  • A sample type can be used to quickly apply shared properties to a group of samples instead of adding these properties to each sample individually.
  • Sample types can be scoped to a particular folder or project context, or shared site wide if they are defined in the Shared project.
  • Samples can be linked with downstream assay results, using a lookup field in the assay design to the sample type. For details, see Link Assay Data to Samples.
  • The derivation of a sample into aliquots, or samples that are mixtures of multiple parent samples, can be tracked. For details, see Sample Parents: Derivation and Lineage.

Samples vs. Specimens

The terms sample and specimen refer to two different methods of tracking the same types of physical materials (such as blood draws or tissue).
  • Specimens. LabKey's specimen infrastructure is provided as a legacy option for use with the study module, enabling close integration of specimen information with other types of study data. The module provides a specimen request and tracking system for specimens. However, specimen information imported to LabKey Server must conform to a constrained format with a defined set of fields.
  • Samples. Samples are less constrained than specimens. Administrators can define sample properties and fields tailored to their particular experiments. Sample infrastructure is provided by LabKey's experiment module. It supports tracking the derivation history of these materials but does not directly support request tracking. Samples are used by LabKey's Flow, MS2 and Microarray modules.


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