Frequently Asked Questions
How do I register for iLab?
Please refer to our iLab User Guide on the Resources page for more information.
Which order do I need to initiate a request under?
Research Histology Project Request if you will be providing the items needed for servicing.
Archival Block Request if you need to use our block retrieval service to obtain clinical blocks for servicing (the RHCL will retrieve the archival blocks*).
*See the Archival tab for related FAQs
What is a logsheet and how do I get one?
A logsheet is a table listing the specifics of your order which you must fill out before you submit your order. It includes your sample IDs, descriptions, quantity, and any special instructions you may need to relay.
Once a request has been initiated*, an empty one will be automatically generated for you along with the request form. You may also provide your own logsheet in the form of an Excel or Word document as an attachment in iLab.
*Note that any requests placed through our "Services and Price List" will not generate the form, and you will encounter issues if you submit your order as is.
How do I know if I am an internal or external requester?
Internal: If you are a part of the MD Anderson network OR the UT Health system*.
External: Anywhere outside the MD Anderson and UT network.
*UT Health system requestors must undergo the external ordering process, but will pay internal pricing as they are part of our MD Anderson network.
How do I place an order in iLab if I am a new external requester?
● Contact the RHCL via phone or email to discuss the details of your request.
● The RHCL will create an order based on services discussed, generate a quote and send the quote electronically to you.
● If you agree to the servicing and pricing, obtain a PO (purchase order) form and PO #, and send it to us via email.
● Once we have the PO form, you may drop off your samples to the North campus lab location at Y7. 5821.
Is there any way to change my order after it has been submitted?
For Research Histology Requests only, you may add or remove new services and edit your logsheet after submission IF your order has not already begun processing.
You may not edit the block list/logsheet of an Archival Block Request once submitted as it is sent directly to the File Room for retrieval. If any adjustments are needed, please contact our Research Data Coordinators via email or phone (see Resources for contact info).
If you need to edit services after processing for your order has begun, or you are unable to edit or remove unwanted charges, please contact the RHCL*.
*See our main page for full contact information.
Why is my final cost different from my projected/initial cost?
● If the services requested do not match the provided instructions, we will have to adjust your charges accordingly.
● During servicing, necessary additions or subtractions from your charges may be needed to complete your order.
Why does the "Special Project" fee apply to my order?
This fee applies if the requested services fall outside the normal scope of RHCL operations. A short information session is often held with the requester to discuss the details of the special request, during which they will be informed of the specifics of the fee.
INTERNAL REQUESTS ONLY
What is a chartfield string?
A chartfield string is an institutional account/funding source that must be used in order to make transactions through iLab.
How do I get access to a chartfield string?
Your name must be linked to a specific chartfield string in iLab. This is done by your financial manager, who you must contact to setup your account.
I have access to multiple chartfield strings. How do I know which one to use?
You will need to contact your financial manager or PI to determine which one you are able to use for your specific project.
I sent my chartfield string to RHCL. Why isn’t my order being processed?
Unless you select your chartfield string from the dropdown list in the payment information section, the RHCL will not accept your order, and it will be put on hold. Common errors include manually typing the chartfield string in the payment notes of iLab, or emailing the string to the RHCL.
Why do I need financial approval before the RHCL can start my order? How do I obtain it?
Financial approval ensures the provided chartfield string is valid and approved for use by your financial department. Without it, we cannot process or complete your order.
Contact the financial manager or PI of your lab/department to obtain it.
Note that the RHCL cannot financially approve your order.
My case was already financially approved. Why is it waiting for financial reapproval?
Many orders are financially approved for a set or limited amount, which usually matches the initial cost of the order. If a pricing change takes place during the processing of your order that sets the cost over the initially approved amount, your order will need financial reapproval in order to continue.
I have placed orders with the RHCL before with no issues. Why do I need financial approval now?
The provided chartfield string may be expired, the set financial limit may fall below the projected cost of the order, or you may be using a new chartfield string where the settings of the previous account do not apply. Contact your financial manager for more information.
EXTERNAL REQUESTS ONLY
Why do I need to give you the PO number?
The PO number is needed to obtain the requested services, and it will be used to authorize the transaction stated in your PO once servicing for your order has been completed.
How do I get access to a PO number?
A purchase order can be requested from your laboratory manager or financial manager.
I don’t have any access to a PO number. Is there another way I can pay for my order?
Purchase order numbers are the only form of payment at this time.
My case was already financially approved. Why is it waiting for financial reapproval?
See answer in Funding tab.
When can I bring in my samples?
When your order status changes to “Waiting for Core to Begin” you are welcome to bring in your samples during our designated lab hours.
What does “Waiting for Core to Begin” mean?
This status tells you that all financials have been approved and you are now permitted to drop off your samples to the lab for servicing.
My order has been stuck on “Waiting for Core to Begin” for a while. Is my case on hold?
● If you have not yet dropped off your order to the lab, this status is an indicator that you can do so. You will not be notified when you can drop off your order, therefore you must monitor the status in iLab.
● If you have already submitted your samples for processing, you have not been contacted by any lab personnel regarding potential issues, and your order is still in this status, it is most likely being processed. However, the lab personnel will wait until the first step is completed before clicking the "Begin" button (this is especially the case with Processing and Embedding orders, which can take up to a full business day to complete the first step).
● You may also email or call the lab at 713-792-3119 to determine the status of your order.
Will I be contacted when my order is done?
You will receive an automated notification from iLab once your order has been completed. An additional email or phone call will be sent for RUSH orders only to ensure a timely pickup.
How do I speed up the turnaround time for my order?
● Ensure you have clearly indicated any special instructions on your logsheet.
● Double-check to make sure the sample IDs on the samples/blocks match what is written on the logsheet.
● RUSH services are available starting at $101.25. This service allows your order to be prioritized over non-RUSH orders. The cost of expediting an order depends on the size & complexity of the order. Note that RUSH orders are still serviced at a first come-first serve basis, and any RUSH orders ahead of yours will be serviced first.
Will the lab make corrections to my order if it’s submitted incorrectly?
The RHCL has the capability to do so, but due to liability issues, we ask that requesters correct their own orders. If you are unable to edit any part of your request, the RHCL will rectify them with your permission, and will document the change via a confirmation email. Frequent users of the lab should take special note to remember what services apply. Cases pending correction will increase the turnaround time.
What types of blocks am I able to request?
Any tissue blocks held by the Pathology File Room (PFR) or Tissue Qualification Lab (TQL) may be requested. PFR and TQL do not have access to Hemepath and Cytology cell blocks, so these cannot be requested.
Why do I need patient consent or front door consent to request a block?
Clinical tissue blocks requested through archival orders are from patients. Therefore, to be in accordance with HIPAA regulations and institutional guidelines, a signed consent must be provided before the RHCL can even retrieve the block(s) if the patient is still alive. Front door consent is required for both living and deceased patients.
Why do I need the treating physician’s approval to request a block?
If a block has not yet undergone molecular testing, the treating physician’s approval must be obtained before we are allowed to request and retrieve the block.
Why can't the RHCL directly contact the treating physician to request approval?
As the requester of clinical blocks, it is your responsibility to correspond with the treating physician and associated clinical team. Furthermore, the RHCL is not able to readily retrieve this information as our duty is primarily to retrieve these blocks and to perform the requested services.
Why does an Archival order take so long?
The RHCL follows our Division of Pathology guidelines of action. We do not hold or store any archival blocks. Therefore, we must wait for the Pathology File Room(PFR) or Tissue Qualification Lab(TQL) to pull requested blocks so that we can retrieve them.
If the requested block is not stored within the institution, PFR has to access them through the accredited warehouse from a different location. It takes an additional 2-3 days for the RHCL to follow up with PFR following this process.
Retrieval of TQL blocks have to comply with the requirements before it can be requested. Once we retrieve the blocks, we can then proceed with your order.
Can we know the number of slides that can be obtained before we submit the request?
We do not see the blocks until we retrieve them. Therefore, this is the only time we can have our senior technicians or lab chiefs examine the block to advise on the number of slides that can be obtained.
How do I know when my case is ready for pick up?
Once the order has been completed on iLab, the requester gets an email notification and the case can be picked up during our lab hours from 8am-4pm.
Drop Off & Pick Up
I am ready to bring my samples to the lab. What do I need to make sure I have done first?
● Ensure the case status in iLab says “Waiting for Core to Begin”.
● Label your sample containers, ziploc bag, molds, slide box, etc. with the 5-digit service ID (order number).
● Ensure that all sample IDs of your items match their logsheet and that they have a maximum character length of 12 (letters, numbers, spaces, symbols).
● Remember your order number for drop-off.
What is the cut-off time for dropping off my order to the lab?
● North Campus cut-off - 4:00pm
● South Campus cut-off - 3:00pm (open Tuesdays & Thursdays only)
Will I be contacted when my order is done?
You will receive an automated notification from iLab once your order has been completed. Only RUSH orders are sent an additional email or call to ensure a timely pickup.
If I drop my fresh/fixed samples off in a container, will I get that container back?
No, we do not store any containers dropped off with samples. All containers left behind will be discarded. However, if you need your container, you may ask to transfer your samples into one of our containers at the time of drop-off.
What if I am dropping off 20 or more samples for processing?
We ask that you self-organize your items according to your logsheet before dropping off to avoid delays in processing.
We recommend using rubber bands for cassettes, tape or block holders for blocks, or separating groups by using small containers to organize the samples according to the logsheet. However, you can utilize any relevant sorting technique to keep your samples organized. Failure to do so will result in your order being placed on hold.
Our definition of unorganized:
● Cassettes free-floating around in a container
● Conical tubes/containers sprawled around in a plastic bag or container (we have tube holders available*)
● Blocks scattered in a bag/box or randomly placed in a block holder (we also have block holders available*)
● Slides randomly placed in a slide box
● For TMA: blocks and H&E slides in separate areas and not matching with each other
*You must request to use these items upon arrival. They are for use in lab only. As such, they will not be given to you upon case completion.
What is the process of picking up my order?
1. You must have the 5-digit RHCL service ID (order number) at hand before coming to the lab.
2. Give the order number to the front desk technician and they will pull up your order in iLab.
3. You will be asked to type your full name and current date in the specified field, and save the info.
4. The technician will then give you your samples, and your order will be officially signed out.
Can I have someone pick up my order on my behalf?
Yes, someone can pick up your order for you as long as they have your RHCL order number.
When can I request cassettes to be printed?
Cassettes can only be printed after order submission in iLab and financial approval.
Orders only requesting cassettes will not be fulfilled due to liability issues. There must be processing/embedding charges accompanying the cassettes.
Please refer to our Cassette Ordering Guidelines on the Resources page for details on ordering pre-printed cassettes.
What information must I include on the items I drop off?
All items must have the service ID (order number). Individual samples and associated items must also have the sample ID written on them for differentiation.
Processing and Embedding
Why were biopsy bags or biopsy pads added to my charges?
If the RHCL determines that your tissue samples are at risk of flowing out of its cassette because of small size, these are used to protect against loss.
Do my tissue samples have to be completely fixed before dropping off to the lab?
No, all samples will be assessed upon arrival to determine if additional fixation is necessary. Please note that we only use 10% Neutral Buffered Formalin (NBF) to fix samples.
If your protocol calls for another fixative to be used, we ask that you fix your samples in the preferred fixative before submission. Note that if we observe the samples are still not fully fixed, we will fix them for you in our fixative.
Which fixative solution does the RHCL recommend?
The fixative of choice for the RHCL is 10% NBF, which we recommend to those needing to fix their own samples. However, the preferred fixative depends on your protocol (for example it may call for 4% Paraformaldehyde).
What is the best, long-term storage solution for my tissue samples?
We recommend 70% ethanol as a safe holding solution for tissue samples. However, this also depends on the techiniques that will be performed on your samples after processing. For example, enzymatic analysis will be negatively impacted by prolonged storage in 70%, and must be fixed and processed as soon as possible to preserve the integrity of the component.
What is the difference between processing/embedding, hand-processing, and cell pellets?
● Processing/Embedding includes the processing and embedding of tissue samples that are sizably able to withstand the processor machine.
● Hand processing is necessary when tissue is fragile, fragmented or very small. It is a gentler process done entirely by hand to preserve the integrity of the samples. Embedding is also included in this charge.
● Cell pellets is a special processing charge indicating that the requester has submitted fragile cell samples rather than sizeable tissue samples. If free-floating cells are submitted, they will be spun down, suspended in Histogel, and hand processed to preserve their integrity. Hand processing and embedding are included in this charge.
I have cells in a scaffold or in a gel matrix. Can this still be processed?
Yes, this does not change the ability of the sample to be processed; but please indicate such a state and any special processing instructions in your logsheet.
What decal solution do you use?
An ion-exchange solution that efficiently decalcifies samples while minimizing harmful effects within the tissue structure.
What does the grossing fee entail, and can I do this myself?
The grossing fee simply means that the RHCL will transfer your samples from their container(s) into their corresponding RHCL-printed cassettes. You may avoid this fee by ordering and picking up your printed cassettes to gross your samples before submission.
Sectioning & Staining
What does FFPE mean?
What is the standard thickness of a slide section?
● FFPE sections: 4μm
● Frozen sections: 4-5μm
● Plastic (MMA) sections: 5-6μm
How can I add specific details regarding my samples (micron thickness, embedding orientation, set distance between sections, etc.)?
● Option 1 - Using the provided iLab logsheet, inform us of any specifics in the “special instructions” area.
● Option 2 - Using an Excel spreadsheet or other uploaded document - inform us in an area on the sheet.
If you do not specify any particulars that are needed, we will proceed according to the charges (providing there are no errors), and our standard protocol will be enacted.
Can I provide my own slide box(es)?
Yes, you may provide your own slide box(es) as long as they are submitted simultaneously with the rest of your order. Slide boxes that are received at or after the time of sectioning will not be used, and slide box fees will be incurred.
What is the difference between a plus slide and a regular slide?
● Plus(+) - these slides are positively charged and coated with an adhesive that allows sections to attach to the slide more effectively.
● Regular - these slides are uncharged with no adhesive coating, posing a greater risk of tissue flipping or floating off of the slide.
What kind of slides are recommended for my project?
● Plus(+) slides are recommended for any staining techniques that will follow either paraffin or frozen sectioning (such as H&E, IHC, or special staining) as it lowers the risk of tissue floating off. It is also recommended when sectioning delicate tissue such as TMA blocks to maintain their structural integrity.
● Regular slides are recommended for techniques desiring easy removal of tissue sections such as DNA/RNA extractions or Laser Capture Microdissection (LCM).
● Sectioning for LCM procedures can also utilize membrane slides either provided by the requester, or by us with our metal-framed membrane slides.
I want to do DNA/RNA extraction on my tissue at a later date. Do I need DNA/RNase prep or DEPC water for my order?
For RNA extraction, we highly recommend DNA/RNAse free prep. This preparation limits DNA and RNase contamination that normally degrades the RNA and complicates the extraction process. For DNA extraction, this service is not needed.
This service entails:
● DNA/RNase free prep - involves the decontamination of microtome station(s), surrounding surfaces, and tools with DNA/RNAse free solutions before and throughout a case. This is necessary for both tissue shavings and slides.
● DEPC Water - a decontaminated ultra purified water substitute to replace the standard distilled water in our tissue floatation baths. This is only needed for slides that need to be cut under DNA/RNase free conditions.
**Before reading this section, we strongly recommend reviewing our Bone Histomorphometry Guidelines found in the Documents portion of our Resources page**
What is bone histomorphometry?
This is a specialized technique performed solely on undecalcified bone samples. The end goal is to analyze various aspects of the sample which would otherwise be hindered or negatively impacted by decalcification.
How do I know if I need bone histomorphometry services?
You will need this service if you are investigating components that can only be seen and analyzed in undecalcified bone samples (such as the calcium in measuring bone volume and density, bone formation/breakdown, or osteocyte quantification and analysis).
This is my first time. How do I know the services I’ll need before I place an order with the RHCL?
You must first consult with Leah Guerra of the Bone Histomorphometry Core Lab (BHCL) to determine which staining and analysis services you will ultimately need before placing an order with us.
The consultation will mainly indicate the best course of action for us in preparing your sample, especially sectioning instructions.
Refer to the Bone Histomorphometry Guide for contact info
What is required before I bring my bone samples to the lab for histomorphometry?
Grossing - Your samples must be grossed/cut and separated by the joint before submission.
Fixation - They must be fixed at least 24 hours in 4% Paraformaldehyde (PFA) before submission.
Refer to the Bone Histomorphometry Guide for more detailed information
Can I use another fixative for my samples besides 4% PFA?
We recommend against this, but it is ultimately your decision. Please note that using a fixative other than 4% PFA will negatively impact the overall quality of your analysis.
Which bone histomorphometry services does the RHCL provide?
The RHCL only performs processing, embedding, and sectioning services for bone histomorphometry.
How can I get my samples stained and analyzed?
For staining and analysis, you must place an order with the BHCL via iLab.
Can I request an IHC stain on a bone histomorphometry sample?
No. The sample must undergo a series of processes and harsh reagents that will completely degrade the antigenicity of the sample. If IHC stains are needed on bone, you must request routine processing with decalcification and paraffin embedding.
Can I submit a bone sample besides the routine mouse long bones or spine?
Yes, but please note that since we do not receive bone samples outside this norm, we will have to adjust our techniques accordingly to obtain the best possible quality. Doing so will significantly increase the turnaround time of your order and possibly infer a special project fee depending on the complexity of your instructions.
WIP - Immunohistochemistry (IHC)/In-situ Hybridization (ISH)
This section is a work in progress and will contain more information in the near future.
Do I need to let the RHCL know what species my tissue samples are?
Absolutely. It will dictate the protocols and type of reagents that we use on your samples.
If your samples are xenograft or PDX, indicate your actual target of interest.
Must I use plus (+) charged slides for IHC?
We definitely recommend using plus (+) slides due to the nature of the IHC epitope retrieval process, which increases the probability of the tissue sections washing off. However, if you insist on taking this risk with regular/uncharged slides and this issue arises, we will not be held responsible and you will not be refunded.
How do I know if the antibody that I want tested is available at the RHCL?
See our panel list found on our Resources page.
What if I want an antibody to be tested that is not on the RHCL panel list?
● The requester will be responsible for providing the antibody along with its data sheet.
● The antibody may be subject to assay development.
What is the difference between assay development and antibody screening?
● Assay development is performed on ready-made or purchased antibodies that have not yet been validated by our lab. The purpose is to develop a complete validated protocol that yields optimal target expression within the tissue.
● Antibody screening is essentially a more extensive assay development for homemade antibodies. The antibody is tested under a variety of conditions, titers, and possibly controls to formulate a validated protocol.
WIP - Aperio/Digital Analysis
This section is a work in progress and will contain more information in the near future.
Why can’t I open eSlide manager?
Since our eSlide manager server is connected to the MD Anderson network, external users will not be able to access eSlide manager unless they are physically on campus. Therefore, they must download Aperio ImageScope* in order to view and analyze their images.
*See download link at the bottom of this section.
Why can’t I open my images?
Aperio scanned images are saved in .svs file format. These files are only able to be opened through the Aperio ImageScope software or through eSlide manager webviewer.
How do I get access to the Aperio software to view my images?
Users must follow this link, register, and download the software in order to view their images.
WIP - Tissue Micro Array (TMA)
What is the purpose of TMA?
The construction of a TMA block allows multiple tissue samples from other blocks to be represented in what are called punch cores.
What preparations do I need to make before placing a TMA order in the system?
If this is your first time needing this service with us, you must complete a TMA Consultation. Contact the RHCL* to set up an appointment.
*See our main page for contact info.
What information will be discussed during the consultation appointment?
We will discuss any of your pending questions and concerns, as well as all the information required for optimal TMA construction including, but not limited to:
● Is your project feasible?
● The most appropriate TMA construction for your project
● The appropriate core size
● Estimated cost
● Information concerning suitability of the H&E slides and blocks involved
What tissue types can be included in a TMA block?
Any tissue type may be used except for bone. Biopsy tissue blocks can be used, however there are certain factors to consider. This is something that would be discussed in further detail during a consultation.
How many tissue cores can be included in one block?
See our TMA maps on our Resources page.
It also depends on the type of TMA block required (e.g. cyto* or special project).
*We are currently in the process of creating correct maps for this type of service.
What sizes can be punched for cores?
The needle size chosen determines the sizes of cores punched. Options for needle sizes are 0.6mm, 1.0mm, and 2.0mm.
What must I have prepared before submission?
● H&E slides with their circled area(s) of interest and their corresponding blocks (the slides must be recent and clearly representative of the corresponding block).
● Make sure that your blocks have enough depth. Blocks that have been sectioned multiple times may have thinning tissue or supporting wax.
● Organize your H&E slides and corresponding blocks together according to your logsheet. See Drop-off & Pickup tab above.
● Ensure that the block ID matches the ID on the corresponding slide.
WIP - Pathology Services
How do I ask for pathologist help on my project?
Contact the RHCL*, or specify within your iLab order that Pathology Services are needed. We will forward your order number and contact information to our pathologist, who will be in contact with you. The fee is charged per 30 minutes.
*See our main page for contact information.
What type of Pathology services do you offer?
● Histological evaluation depending on the investigator's needs for specific projects
● Annotation and quantification on scanned digital images using various image analysis software
● Supervision and/or training on ImageScope using our PC stations are available. Self-service of our stations are also available for a fee.