IMPORTANT: before transporting, shipping or receiving brains/tissue specimens, you must complete the "Shipping Infectious Substances Training" training below:

For more information about shipping tissue specimens, see MGH_Shipping_Infectious_Materials_and_Dry_Ice_Guide

Packing Brains for Shipment

Long term shipping (a day or more in transport)

If you are sending brains to collaborators and the shipping time will be longer than a few hours, you should consider packing the brain in 10% formalin to keep it safe and fixed throughout the journey. 10% formalin is also an unregulated substance, so Anne Salle, the Biosafety Officer ( ) said that there are no restrictions on how much liquid we can have in our package. If you wanted to ship using PLP you would probably need a special training certificate and it might cost money. Anne said our best bet was to get the package exempt from shipping regulations by using formalin. We shipped our brains to France through World Courier using this method, and it was really nice to not have to worry about keeping the brains at a certain temperature. The process took longer than we thought to get them shipped, and if they had been in PLP it would have been much more of a problem.


  1. Camera
  2. Brain packing supplies (foodsaver bag, aluminum foil, sealer etc.)
  3. 10% formalin
  4. Sharpie for labeling
  5. Plastic bucket/container
  6. Large, ziplock or plastic bag that can be sealed (and fit the bucket inside)
  7. Styrofoam shipping box with lid (fitted to the cardboard outer shipping box)
  8. Cardboard box
  9. Underpads
  10. Packing material (peanuts, bubble wrap etc.)
  11. Biohazard labels (can be stickers, or just other bags/papers with the logo on them)
  12. Packing tape
  13. Exempt Human Specimen labels (see below for examples)
  14. Itemized list of contents (see below for examples)
  15. Shipment info label (see below for examples)

Packing Instructions

  1. Photodocument each surface of the brain (anterior, posterior, left, right, ventral, dorsal surfaces) with the brain ID attached in the photos
  2. Pack brain in a foodsaver bag with 10% formalin. Similar to packing for scanning, except it is not as crucial to get all of the air bubbles out for shipping
  3. Label the bag with the case ID
  4. Get a plastic bucket and put down an underpad in the bottom of it
  5. Lay the packed brain inside the bucket
  6. Put another underpad or two around and on top of the brain so that it cannot shift inside the bucket, and if it leaks, the liquid in the bag could be absorbed
  7. Tape the bucket with fabric tape and label it with the case ID
  8. Place the bucket in a large zip-lock bag or some plastic bag that is seal-able. This is your secondary container.
  9. Get a styrofoam container and place an underpad on the bottom
  10. Place the bag containing the bucket inside the styrofoam box
  11. Pack the styrofoam box with underpads and packing peanuts or other material to keep it steady and also absorb any accidental leaks (there shouldn't be any at this point but you never know)
  12. Place the cover on the styrofoam box and tape it thoroughly with packing tape (crossing over the top and also going around the sides)
  13. Place a biohazard sticker or logo on the top of the styrofoam box. Last time I just taped a plastic bag that had the logo onto the box
  14. Get a cardboard box and place an underpad on the bottom
  15. Slide the styrofoam box into the cardboard box. You now should have over three layers of protection (foodsaver bag, bucket, zip-lock bag, styrofoam box, cardboard box) with layers of underpads and peanuts in between for absorbency and cushioning
  16. Make an itemized list of the box's contents and place between the cardboard box and styrofoam box (I placed it on top of the styrofoam box.
    1. See an example here: /autofs/cluster/exvivo/rock/4/users/hires/exvivo_data_collection/Lab_Protocols/Brain_Packing_Shipping/Shipping/Destrieux_Project/C1_itemized_list.doc

  17. Tape up the cardboard box with packing tape (make sure there is no way it could pop open during transit)
  18. Label the box with shipment info
    1. See an example here: /autofs/cluster/exvivo/rock/4/users/hires/exvivo_data_collection/Lab_Protocols/Brain_Packing_Shipping/Shipping/Destrieux_Project/C1_Shipment_Info.doc

  19. Label the other 3 sides of the box with "Exempt Human Specimen" labels and draw (or print) arrows indicating which side should be facing up
    1. See an example here: /autofs/cluster/exvivo/rock/4/users/hires/exvivo_data_collection/Lab_Protocols/Brain_Packing_Shipping/Shipping/Destrieux_Project/Exempt_Human_Specimen_C1.doc

  20. Make a directory for the project on the custer here: /autofs/cluster/exvivo/rock/4/users/hires/exvivo_data_collection/Lab_Protocols/Brain_Packing_Shipping/Shipping/<project_name>

  21. Place copies of the itemized list, shipment info doc and "Exempt Human Specimen" labels in your project folder
  22. Your package is now ready to be weighed and measured!

Short term shipping (a few hours in transport)

This is an older method that we used to ship brains. It should work if the brain will only be in transport for a few hours and will not be in danger of drying out. Packing in 10% formalin is preferred, but if there is no time to do this, then ice packs can be used to keep the brain cool and surgical towels soaked in PLP or 10% formalin can be used to keep the brain moist.


Packing Instructions

  1. Photodocument each surface of the brain (anterior, posterior, left, right, ventral, dorsal surfaces) with the brain ID attached in the photos.
  2. Soak a surgical towel in PLP and rinse out excess liquid.
  3. Carefully wrap brain in PLP soaked towel
    • cut towel width of the brain, wrap 2 times around
    • cut towel length of brain, wrap 2 times around
    • cut towel length of brain, wrap 3 times around diagonally
  4. Wrap towel-covered brain in plastic wrap. Make sure not to compress the brain by wrapping it too tightly.
  5. Place the brain in a sealable plastic bag, place gauze around the brain to prevent the brain from moving around inside the bag. Seal the bag and tape with clear packing tape. Label the bag with brain ID.
  6. Place a folded dry surgical towel in the base of a 1.5 gallon bucket (or bucket suitable for brain size).
  7. Wrap the bagged brain with surgical towels and then compressed bubble wrap.
  8. Place the wrapped brain into the bucket.
  9. Fill in any gaps around the bagged brain with padding such as bubble wrap, gauze or dry towels to prevent movement and damage during shipping.
  10. Place the lid on the bucket and tighten.
  11. Use parafilm or packing tape to further seal the lid.
  12. Obtain a large plastic bag, place 2-3 absorbent pads at the bottom of the bag.
  13. Place bag into an insulated Styrofoam shipping container.
  14. Place bucket into the plastic bag on top of the absorbent pads.
  15. Add as many cold packs that will fit into the bag around the bucket.
  16. Seal bag with packing tape. Label the top of the bag with the brain ID.
  17. Fill the insulated Styrofoam shipping container with packing peanuts or bubble wrap around the bucket to prevent the bucket from shifting during shipping.
  18. Place a cover on Styrofoam container and seal with packing tape. Label the Styrofoam container with the brain ID.
  19. Place Styrofoam container into cardboard shipping box.
  20. Make a packing slip including the sender and receiver contact information and a list of contents in package (i.e. human brain wrapped in PLP soaked towel).
  21. Tape the packing slip to the outside of the Styrofoam container.
  22. Close cardboard box and tape on all sides with packing tape.
  23. Attach an Exempt Human/Exempt Animal Specimen label to the outside of the box, mark Exempt Human Specimen.
  24. Also with a marker or printed label mark the outside of the box with “FRAGILE”, DO NOT X-RAY” and “DO NOT OPEN”

Packing Boxes of tissue slices received from Boston University for the U01 project to LENS in Italy

Wetlab Supplies Needed and Steps to Follow

Take the boxes you receive (hard plastic boxes, possibly wrapped in plastic and containing tissue slices in slice holders with paper towel and PBS solution) and arrange them with absorbent material all around them, then fit that inside the Ziplock bag. Make sure it's sealed tightly to prevent leaking and the slices drying-out. Squeeze out excess air before closing the Ziplock bag. Spritz the outside of the bag with bleach and let it sit for a few minutes. Then wipe down with paper towel and discard. While you wait for the bleach to work, find a sturdy cardboard box that is big enough to hold the Ziplock bag and plenty of padding material. Reinforce the sides with tape if needed. Use a ruler to get the box Height, Width and Length. These details are needed to set up the shipping label. Once the bag is disinfected, place inside the box making sure the bag holding tissue slices is surrounded by padding on all sides. Weigh the box (weight in lbs or grams is fine). If you can find UN3373 B labels in the stationery drawer in the wetlab, cut one of these and affix to the outside of the box. Alternatively, you can print a sign out later: /autofs/cluster/octdata/users/morgan/U01_management/shipping_slices/UN3373B.jpeg.

Examples of packing:
nappy_pad.jpg ziplock.jpg box.jpg

Office Supplies Needed and Steps to Follow

Upstairs, you'll need to print out the MSDS form for whatever solution the tissue slices are packed in if the solution amount is more than 10ml (usually is). You also need to print out the FedEx Shipping label and one copy will need to go inside the box before you seal it up. MSDS and old example shipping label can be found here: /autofs/cluster/octdata/users/morgan/U01_management/shipping_slices/. Also included as attachments on this wiki page.

Examples of packing:
.jpg .jpg .jpg

Instructions on setting up the FedEx Shipping Label

Packing Slices of Tissue for Shipment



The following directions are for packing with the individual slice holders (shown below).
20190107_105744.jpg 20190107_105736.jpg

Examples of packing:
20181211_171450.jpg 20181211_171628.jpg 20181211_173001.jpg

Additional Information

Shipping Methods

Transporting Ex vivo brains by Car or Shuttle

Shipping via World Courier or Federal Express

MGH lists two carriers in their "Shipping Infectious Materials and Dry Ice Guide" who will transport dangerous goods:

World Courier is usually preferred, because they will call someone down to the lobby to pick up the shipment. FedEx leaves it in Janice’s office which is kind of gross so we try to avoid it if possible. (We assume they will do the same wherever you send it.)

World Courier - International Shipping

Current rates (as of 3/23/16):

The next time you ship, please call and check these rates and update the wiki as needed. We also do not have much info on

So far we have documented a pipeline shipping internationally with WC. For domestic shipments, please call their customer service line at 1-800-221-6600 and request the forms for domestic shipping.

Then put those forms on the cluster and document your process here for future shippers.

International forms are located here:


Customs Invoice

Below are instructions for filling out the customs invoice. For an example invoice please see here:

  1. Shipper info: shipper name, company name, address, phone number, email

  2. Consignee info: consignee name, company name, address, phone number, email

  3. Country of Origin: I just left this blank because the brains were originally from France but were now being shipped from US and I wasn't sure what to put. Probably would be where the package is being shipped from

  4. Description of goods:

    1. Description of what you are shipping
    2. Details on how the brains are packaged
    3. Add Incoterms: DDP if shipper is responsible for duties and taxes, DAP is consignee is responsible

    4. HTS Code: I was told to put the code for genetic material (which is not what this is but I didn't have time to argue with them). It is 3002.90.5150

  5. QTY: how many boxes/pieces to the shipment

  6. Unit Value: We aren't sure what this should be, but I was told that we need a monetary value by WC. We put $500.00 per brain with C1 and C2

  7. Total Value: Add up the total value based on your unit value and how many units you have

  8. Total Quantity and Total: put the totals

  9. Print your Name
  10. Save document to the cluster (no signature)
  11. Print out and sign in BLUE INK and DATE
  12. Scan and email to

    1. This is their international customer service. Domestic shipments would probably get sent somewhere else. Call for more info
  13. Place a copy of the scanned form on the cluster here


Customer Order Form

Below are instructions for filling out the customer order form. For an example order form please see here:

  1. Print this document before filling it out. I had a lot of trouble trying to fill in the sections and save it. It would oftentimes erase my input, or it would look like it saved but then when I sent it to WC all of my text was missing. Best way to insure it gets there in one piece is to print it and write it in, then scan it back to them
  2. Account#: If the Consignee is paying, you don't even really need to know this. They will call them after you submit the paperwork and confirm all of the billing details anyways. You really just need their contact info to be correct so WC can get in touch with them
  3. Account Name: see above
  4. Billing Ref Number: see above
  5. Auto Alerts: Yes to all (although they did not notify me of anything when they shipped to France. They only notified Christophe. Might be worth looking into this)
  6. Pick-up From: Info about the shipper or whoever is giving the package to WC
    1. Name
    2. Company
    3. Street
    4. Town, State, Zip, Country
    5. Phone #
    6. Email
  7. Deliver to: Info about the Consignee. Same fields as above
  8. AutoAlerts: Yes to all (see above note about autoalerts)

  9. Pick-up Date and Time: Leave these plank if you are getting the paperwork approved before scheduling a date/time. This is easiest to avoid problems down the line
  10. Product Description: formalin-fixed, whole human brains (might need to modify this depending on what you are shipping)
  11. Hazardous?: No, if you are shipping formalin-fixed tissue there are no hazards
  12. Class: Exempt
  13. Number of pieces: Number of boxes in the shipment
  14. Total Weight: Weight each box and total. There should be a scale in the mail-room
  15. Dimensions: Box dimensions. Last time I shipped in a 1x1x1 ft box
  16. Value for customs: Not sure what number to put here. I was told we need to put something, so with C1 and C2 we just put $500.00 a brain.
  17. Incoterms: If shipper is paying, put DDP. If Consignee is paying put DAP
  18. Shippers Letter of Instructions: This is not needed if your shipment is under $2500 ( at least as far as I am aware). I was told to leave it blank and that it was not relevant.
  19. Product Temperature: Put temp requirements. For tissue in formalin, I put “room temp is ok” to indicate that it does not need to be kept cold
  20. Dry Ice or Gel Packs?: No
  21. Skip the next section about gel packs, but you can indicate again when they ask about temperature for storage during transit that room temp is ok
  22. Temp Monitor?: No
  23. Put if you want World Courier to supply you with any items
    1. Packaging mainly means boxes with built in gel packs to keep things cold. They recommend this over using your own because they know how long the boxes last for, and the gels are panels in the box and not loose packs
    2. If you do not require temp controlled boxes though, you don't really need to order boxes through them
    3. If you do want them to supply items, put down the dimensions of what you need and how many pieces
  24. Additional Requests/Instructions/Notes: This is where you put description of your packages and give notes to WC so they know what they are dealing with. Be as specific and detailed as possible to help them ship your item in the best way possible. Describe what you are shipping, how it is packages, and if you have any other requests from them during shipment.
    1. See the example Order form from C1 and C2 for details
  25. Scan and email to

    1. This is their international customer service. Domestic shipments would probably get sent somewhere else. Call for info

After paperwork is approved

You will get an email from WC telling you your paperwork is approved and that now they are checking with the consignee about the account and billing information. Once that has been cleared they will email you again asking to set up a time for pickup.

Preparing To Ship

You will need an airway bill and also 3 copies of the customs invoice signed in WET BLUE INK (no photocopies). We have extra airway bills in the filing cabinets where we keep the order forms, but if they ever run out you can just ask the WC person to bring you some when they show up. On the airway bill you fill out the "From" and "To" sections exactly the same as the customs invoice. Under the description you can also use what you wrote on the invoice, but you do not need to copy over the description of how the brains are packed. So you could say something like "formalin fixed, whole human brains. One brain per package. DAP." Put down the number of pieces and then print, date and sign. I was told that you do not need to fill out the rest of the bill, but you can always ask the WC person when they show up.

Upon WC Arrival

WC will call you and whatever number you put down on your forms. I put my cell phone number just in case I was not at my desk, but this is up to you. When they came, I met them in the loading dock with the boxes and it was a very quick exchange. They will look over your papers, take the 3 copies of the customs invoice and then take the top form of the airway bill and give you the reciept portion.

After WC Pickup

According to Anne Sallee, Biosafety Officer, ( ) on 1/25/15 - US DOT requires all shipping documents be kept for 3 years.

  1. File the airway bill receipt in the cabinet with the other forms
  2. If you have not already, make a project folder here: /autofs/cluster/exvivo/rock/4/users/hires/exvivo_data_collection/Lab_Protocols/Brain_Packing_Shipping/Shipping/<project_name>

  3. Please make sure these files are in your project folder
    1. Itemized list for each package
    2. Shipment info document for each package
    3. "Exempt Human Specimen" labels
    4. WC Customer Order Form (signed and dated)
    5. Blank copy of the customs invoice (in case you need to print it out and sign it again)
    6. A signed and dated copy of the customs invoice (usually from when you sent the original paperwork in to be approved)
  4. Mark the samples in case_status as being removed from the lab
  5. Email the consignee that the brains have been shipped

ExvivoTransport (last edited 2021-02-22 18:32:33 by LeahMorgan)