A novel specialized tissue culture incubator designed and engineered for radiobiology experiments in a sub-natural background radiation research environment
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Extensive research has been conducted investigating the effects of ionizing radiation on biological systems, including specific focus at low doses. However, at the surface of the planet, there is the ubiquitous presence of ionizing natural background radiation (NBR) from sources both terrestrial and cosmic. We are currently conducting radiobiological experiments examining the impacts of sub-NBR exposure within SNOLAB. SNOLAB is a deep underground research laboratory in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada located 2 km beneath the surface of the planet. At this depth, significant shielding of NBR components is provided by the rock overburden. Here, we describe a Specialized Tissue Culture Incubator (STCI) that was engineered to significantly reduce background ionizing radiation levels. The STCI was installed 2 km deep underground within SNOLAB. It was designed to allow precise control of experimental variables such as temperature, atmospheric gas composition and humidity. More importantly, the STCI was designed to reduce radiological contaminants present within the underground laboratory. Quantitative measurements validated the STCI is capable of maintaining an appropriate experimental environment for sub-NBR experiments. This included reduction of sub-surface radiological contaminants, most notably radon gas. The STCI presents a truly novel piece of infrastructure enabling future research into the effects of sub-NBR exposure in a highly unique laboratory setting.