April 29, 2019
A biobank is the centralized source of high-quality human biological specimens. Biobanks are often called biorepositories, however, there exists a fine distinction between the two. A biorepository involves the collection of plants, animals and other non-human samples; whereas a biobank mainly store biological samples obtained from humans. Biobanking is the process of collecting, storing and distributing human biological samples and related data for clinical research purpose.
1. Biological material handling: It includes biospecimen collection, storage, and distribution.
2. Database management system: It consists of donor-related information such as informed consent, medical history, lifestyle data, and demographic information.
There is a list of human samples that are collected and stored in biobanks which includes whole blood, plasma, serum, RBC, white cells, DNA, RNA, protein, cell lines, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, amniotic fluid buffy coat, bone marrow stem cells, etc.
The history of biobanks is not long. The collection and storage of human tissue has been part of basic medical research for nearly a century. The initial biobanks were university-based and used to facilitate the research needs of institute driven projects. These biobanks randomly collected samples, they were not storing specific collections. Later with the development in the IT sector, genomics, proteomics and other related areas of science, the research needs to be increased dramatically. This led to the creation of a variety of biobanks. In addition to the research needs, the regulatory pressures have also contributed to this change in the basic paradigm of biobanks. Biobanks not only store samples, but extensive clinical and genomic level information. Therefore modern day biobanks act more than just supporting tools and are recognized as an important platform for biospecimen and data sharing.
The chronological development of biobanks over these years is as follows:
Data sharing is one of the most powerful factors behind new innovations. Researchers across the globe have articulated a vision of biobank harmonization, which is crucial for the effective development of biobanking as a process. The future of biobanking is, therefore, the ability to harness the full potential of biobanks and acquire biospecimens in a reasonable time.
Biobanking mainly involves the following four standard operations:
A human biobank aims to build a central resource that can support research intended to better understand human diseases. Some of the goals of the biobanks are as follows:
The concept of biobanking is not new. Over the past thirty years, biobanks have evolved considerably. In comparison to the initial biobanks, the modern day biobanks are designed as a common resource supporting a broad range of scientific investigations. The era of personalized medicine has brought in new discoveries for a better understanding of the etiopathology of human diseases. The role and importance of biobanks which links the biological samples to medical and biomedical information have become more important in the present time. Recent advances in translational research have also introduced multi-disciplinary approaches which in turn has provoked a lot of contemporary questions that are yet to be answered. Proper networking and harmonization of biobanks further can unleash its full potential as a powerful single platform for research innovations. Biobanking due to their broad coverage faces a number of ethical, social and legal challenges related to sample storage, donor data protection, and information sharing. As a process, biobanking is facing the lack of harmonization, lack of standards, and best practices for collecting data and processing samples. Harmonization is a more flexible approach aimed at ensuring the effective interchange of valid information and samples. It further refers to generating, sharing, pooling, and analyzing data and biological samples to allow combining resources and comparing results obtained from different biobanks.