Clean rooms are used in a variety of fields, though they are absolutely vital when it comes to medicine. By eliminating every possibility of contamination — whether it be biological, chemical, or physical in nature –, scientists and researchers can guarantee that their work (and the people who depend upon it) is untainted. From drug development to manufacturing, every step of the process must abide by strict clean room standards.
Though there are many different clean room standards (including the care and use of fume hoods) that should be met, this article is going to focus on the four main characteristics that clean room clothing should follow. Let’s take a look.
Non-linting material: Regular clothing is full of small fibers that occasionally fall loose. While this is not a problem in normal life, these minuscule fibers can damage delicate machinery; clothing that is lint-free does not experience the same problem.
Resistance to arc flashes: If the threat of an electrical arc flash is present, OSHA requires employees to wear clothing that won’t immediately catch on fire in the event they come into contact with it. Since arc flashes can exceed 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s vital that flame-resistant clothing be worn for protection.
Anti-static carbon fibers: In oxygen-rich environments, even something as small as the shock from static electricity can pose a threat. Additionally, very sensitive electronic equipment can be damaged by static shocks, even those that cannot be detected by human beings. Anti-static or electrostatic discharge (ESD) clothing reduces this risk.
High-density fabric: In a very simple way, thick, high-density fabric prevents corrosive liquids and heat from harming any lab technicians or scientists.
The risks are simply too high to chance skipping a single step in the interest of saving time. In 2012, 48 people died when a pharmacy in the northeast failed to commit to clean room standards and accidentally infected a common prescription drug with fungal meningitis; in 2008, a staff researcher died after being burned because she was not wearing lab attire and was handling a chemical that ignites spontaneously in air.
Whether you’re dealing with radiolabeled compounds, ICN radiochemicals, or sensitive drugs, you should always be wearing gear that follows the above design characteristics. Otherwise, you — or dozens of people you’ve never met — may suffer the consequences.
Everybody has seen those commercials for new drugs. Whether they’re treating depression, fibromyalgia, or a chronic illness, they all had to go through the same development process; from its original synthesis to the extensive FDA trials, odds are radiolabeling was used at some point.
Laboratories across the world work tirelessly to develop new medicines, manufacture current medications, and further our understanding of science. When medicine is involved, clean room standardsmust be upheld. This involves maintaining and monitoring the lab’s humidity (electronic sensing devices now ensure a plus or minus 1% accuracy), air purity, and ensuring that no cross-contamination occurs.
Laboratory environments vary depending on the work being done. Regardless of the field of study or experimentation being performed, safety is always paramount. Fume hoods are a staple among basic laboratory safety equipment as they can perform multiple functions, the two foremost being air filtration and chemical protection.
Science is an expansive and constantly evolving field. As more discoveries are made, our understanding of the world we live in grows and develops in (occasionally) incomprehensible ways; we learn what benefits us, what harms us, and everything in between. Laboratories are often at the forefront of such revelations and are protected as such.
Radiolabeled compounds are extremely useful in the modern medical industry, and extremely beneficial to society. From drug trials to cancer treatments, the synthesis of carbon 14 production (also known as 14C labeling) can save lives by allowing new drugs to become available nationally.
Radiolabeled compounds rely on the use of radioactive isotopes (also referred to as radioisotopes) for enrichment. Since radiation is historically bad for human beings, extra care must be taken to ensure that no harm comes to either the people involved in developing these radiochemicals or the compounds themselves; after all, if improper handling procedures were common in this country, the U.S. would not be the number one largest national producer of chemical products globally.
Acute kidney injury (AKI), previously known as acute renal failure, kills around 1.7 million people every year. The kidneys produce a rapid buildup of nitrogenous wastes and also decrease urine output; severe complications — including muscle weakness, paralysis, and heart rhythm problems — ensue.
The U.S. has long been a driver of scientific discovery. From cures to vaccines, medical implementation of these advances has been at the forefront of our nation’s goals. The finding of radiolabeling applications is one such breakthrough.
Radiolabeling (and isotopic labeling) is valuable to the developments of other breakthroughs: C14 radiolabeling (also known as 14C labeling) allows scientists and researchers to track the passage of an isotope — an atom with a detectable variation in neutron count — through a reaction, metabolic pathway, or cell. For example, if you wanted to create a new drug to treat cancer, you’d want to be sure that it’s going to the region infected with cancer, preferably the cancer cells themselves. These radiolabeled compounds are visible so scientists can know for sure that their drugs are where they’re supposed to be.
However, when you’re dealing with radioactive materials, even when they’re as minuscule as radionuclides, certain rules and regulations need to be put in place. In 1975, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of radioactive drugs as safe, but only if they met certain requirements. The Radioactive Drug Research Committee (RDRC) Program began the same year to “[permit] basic research using radioactive drugs in humans without an Investigational New Drug Application(IND) when the drug is administered under the following conditions”: that the research is considered “basic science research” and is done for the purpose of advancing scientific knowledge; the research study is approved by an FDA-approved RDRC; the dose of the radioactive drug is known not to cause any clinically detectable pharmacologic effect in humans; the radiation dose is justified by the quality of the study being undertaken and the importance of the information it seeks to obtain.
In a similar, equally important vein, any scientific research or testing in a laboratory must be held to the GMP standards. Good Manufacturing Practices are vital to preventing contamination that could destroy the efforts made so far, as well as potentially harm others: in 2012, a fungal meningitis outbreak occurred in a pharmacy in the Northeast due to poor manufacturing procedures — 48 people died because of the shortcuts, lapse in cleanliness, and poor maintenance of the pharmacy.
If we are to continue to make leaps and bounds in the name of science, it’s absolutely essential that we follow GMP standards (as well as RDRC codes) to the letter.
Getting a new drug off the ground takes a lot of work. You have to follow stringent (and very specific) FDA guidelines, exercise top-tier clean room standards (and GMP standards) to prevent contamination and reduce risk, and perform dozens of radiolabeled tests to ensure the drug is going to the right target within the human body. With so many hoops to jump through and factors to keep track of, it’s a miracle we’ve produced the thousands of drugs already on the market! Read more