Biobanking is the practice of collecting biological and medical data for research purpose; in fact, more than 50% of biobanks identify their reason for existence as research on a specific disease. The popularity of biobanking has exploded in the last 15 years or so, and there is a genuine need for it. Although the number of tissue samples in U.S. biobanks has been increasing by about 20 million since the year 2000, almost half the cancer researchers asked in a recent survey said they had trouble finding samples of acceptable quality for their research.
Part of the trouble with sample quality is in the technology of the freezer inventory software that biobanks use. The process of stabilizing biosamples at low temperatures is called cryopreservation. The freezing process is extremely complex, and needs to be monitored and controlled- it is recommended that samples be stored from -80 degrees Celsius to -200 (which is the temperature in which all enzymes cease to operate). The main component of any cell is water, and ice crystals forming during the freezing process can destroy the sample completely. Add in thawing and unthawing of samples as they are retrieved and studied, and it can be very hard to maintain sample management standards.
Many freezer software systems use what is called a seed lot system to bypass this problem. When a sample is collected, a portion of it is set aside as the “seed” which is not used for research until all of the working material is gone. That seed is then separated to make a new batch of working material and so on. This helps preserve the integrity of the original sample.
One big issue in lab sample tracking is keeping track of the proper information without violating the privacy of the subject who contributed it. The most successful and desirable freezer software decodes personal information completely and retrieves the sample based on an assigned code (sometimes even a barcode). This serves to keep personal information private but still allow the researchers to access demographic information that applies to the research.
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As of January 1, 2014, there were nearly 14.5 million living children and adults with a history of cancer around the world, demonstrating the importance of finding effective treatments for this devastating condition. To discover potential therapies, oncologists and researchers often turn to translational medicine, which "translates" new findings into effective medical decisions and approaches. This tactic usually relies on biobanking facilities, and for good reason: in 2000, the number of tissues samples in American biobanks alone was estimated at 300 million, and has since increased by 20 million a year. However, in 2011, as many as 329 cancer researchers reported that they were having trouble finding samples of sufficient quality.
Fortunately, laboratory sample management software has improved dramatically in recent years, resulting in better samples and organizational methods to track freezer inventory. This helps researchers find the best possible samples for their studies, whether they are researching cancer or heart disease or thousands of conditions in between. Many experts say that this could lead to a number of better treatments for these disorders, pointing to recent successes as proof.
One of these examples is a fresh study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where a team of cancer researchers believe they have made a significant discovery about a prominent subtype of breast cancer. There are five different types of breast cancer, each with distinct biologies that progress and react differently to treatment. The researchers discovered that one of these subtypes, called HER2-enriched or HER2+, has an elevated expression of two proteins: poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, a DNA repair enzyme also called PARP1, and phospho-p65. As a result, the team believes that a type of drug called PARP inhibitors could be used to better treat women with HER2+, which currently has a fairly poor prognosis.
This discovery follows several other trials which have previously shown benefits to PARP inhibitors, including one study that showed that HER2+ cells are sensitive to the drugs, and others that suggested it could be used in cases with both defective and intact DNA repair pathways. To further study the condition and the potential use of the medicine, the UAB group tested breast cancer tissue that had been collected from 307 patients between 1992 and 2012 and stored using laboratory sample management software. The patients had been diagnosed with HER2+, basal or luminal breast cancer. They found that HER2+ tumors had higher levels of PARP1 and phospho-p65 when compared to other tumors, and that these proteins were coordinately expressed. It is perhaps unsurprising to learn that PARP1 has previously been linked to particularly aggressive tumors.
In light of their discovery, the research team is recommending that PARP inhibitor sensitivity be tested in further trials. In time, with further usage of tissues stored with laboratory sample management software and a focus on these proteins, perhaps researchers will be able to use this information to create a more effective treatment.
The average American likely knows very little about translational medicine, a discipline that seeks to "translate" clinical research into new tools, treatments, policies and more to improve public and individual health. For the biomedical community, however, translational medicine is an important subject, causing organizations and scientists to dedicate millions in funding and years of effort to biobanking, various projects, and more. For example, the Strategic Pharma-Academic Research Consortium for Translational Medicine recently awarded $1.9 million to several different research projects, furthering the application of this practice to autoimmune diseases.
The Strategic Pharma-Academic Research Consortium was designed to support translational medicine in both the public and private sectors. Accordingly, their recent grants were awarded in collaboration with their industry partners, Eli Lilly and Co. and Takeda Pharmaceuticals International Inc., two international pharmaceutical companies. The program gives $400,000 to five research projects at medical research universities in the Midwest, which will be used to provide a two-year investment in each group's work. These research projects focus on multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, Crohn's disease, dermatomyositis and scleroderma.
The grants will likely be extremely helpful to these different teams, as translational research often features a variety of scientific expenses. Take biobanking, for example: whether a biological freezer inventory is maintained by an academic institution, company, or other private group, 57% of these facilities rely on funding from the federal government to support their operations. In many cases, this funding is necessary to invest in high-quality laboratory sample management software: while the number of tissues was estimated at more than 300 million in 2000 and is increasing by 20 million a year, a 2011 study of more than 700 cancer researchers found that 47% had trouble finding quality biobank samples.
One of the most exciting projects affected by the Strategic Pharma-Academic Research Consortium's grants is led by Dr. Yanjio Zhou of Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). His research team, which includes assistant professor of neurology Dr. Laura Piccio and Ohio State University's associate professor of microbial infection and immunology Dr. Amy Lovett-Racke, is studying the function of gut bacteria in patients with MS. Microbiology has become a hot topic in the scientific community in recent years and is believed to hold the answer to a number of conditions.
Meanwhile, other recipients include Dr. Anthony R. French, an associate professor of pediatrics, pathology, immunology and biomedical engineering at WUSTL, and Lauren M. Pachman, professor of pediatrics-rheumatology at Northwestern University. Both are currently studying juvenile dermatomyositis. Likewise, Dr. Gwendalyn Randolph, professor of pathology and immunology, immunobiology and internal medicine at WUSTL, and Dr. Razvan Arsenescuwere, the associate professor of internal medicine at Ohio State University, also were awarded grants for their research on intestinal fibrosis caused by Crohn’s disease.
The term "biobanking" refers to the process of collecting, storing and distributing human biological materials, such as blood, plasma, saliva, purified DNA and other specimens. These materials are a vital part of a field called translational medicine, in which biological samples are studied to hopefully yield information that can be translated into treatments. Translational research depends on properly preserved samples, making freezer software and laboratory sample management software important to many biobanks. However, obtaining and storing high-quality samples for this freezer software to use is not as straightforward as many researchers think.
Previous studies have shown that donors often have moral, religious and cultural concerns about how their samples are used, a fact that may affect their decision to donate or give blanket consent. However, a research team at Michigan State University noticed that the surveyed groups that had provided this data were not representative of the U.S. population. To re-examine this willingness, the team surveyed the GfK KnowledgePanel, a probability-based online panel of adults designed to represent the American population. Participants read an introductory description of a fictional biobank, then rated their willingness to donate on a six-point scale, which ranged from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree". They first rated their willingness on blanket consent, then answered a variety of "even if" style questions, which could present moral concerns. The researchers then gave the respondents short descriptions of the benefits and consequences of five methods of gaining consent, asking them to indicate which were acceptable, the best, and the worst.
In a study published in the January 27 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the research team found that the majority of almost 1,600 individuals were willing to donate samples and medical information to a biobank. Moreover, most were willing to use blanket consent.
The team's final analysis included 1,559 of an original 2,654 participants. The respondents were typically older, Caucasian, had high levels of education and high household incomes. As many as 68% were willing to donate with blanket consent. However, moral concerns were associated with a significant reduction in willingness to donate in all but one scenario.
In light of their findings, the research team is arguing for increased use of blanket consent to appeal to potential donors and limit reduced donations. However, the overall willingness of Americans to donate samples came as no surprise to many: at the turn of the century, the number of tissue samples in U.S. biobanks alone was estimated at more than 300 million, and is increasing by 20 million a year. With these statistics, it's no wonder that so many companies are looking for better freezer software to manage their samples!
In recent years, translational medicine has drawn considerable attention, with laboratories around the world using biobanking technology to study everything from Alzheimer's disease to cancer. This research often requires extensive sample management systems to safely store and track the data being collected, but the facilities that engage in these studies often create jobs and yield information that can be used to create more effective medical treatments. For these reasons, the city of Kannapolis, North Carolina is currently planning to build a new biobanking center, a decision inspired by a new study researching disease patterns in the area.
Biobanks are defined as the repositories that collect, store and distribute human biological materials, including blood, plasma, saliva, purified DNA and other specimens. In many cases, these biorepositories will also keep a record of personal and health-related information connected to these samples, such as genetic data, health records, and family history, for use in various studies and research projects. Through the use of sample management systems and biobanking software, the facilities store huge amounts of data, which is managed, analyzed and later combined to support scientific needs. For the city of Kannapolis, which is the site of a $35 million project called the MURDOCK study, having such a research center in their area makes economic and scientific sense. Standing for the “Measurement to Understand the Reclassification of Disease of Cabarrus/Kannapolis," the study plans to use biological data and samples to study the genomic links within and across conditions like osteoarthritis, obesity, and heart disease.
Currently, the samples being collected from the 11,000 area residents enrolled in the study are being housed in a biobanking facility in Kannapolis. However, the city sees this as just the beginning: with the help of the North Carolina Research Campus, an organization dedicated to using scientific innovation to help a community's economic prosperity, the city plans to draw businesses and construct new biobanking facilities over the next several years. This could have a significant impact on Kannapolis, which suffered after a major manufacturer left town. Will the MURDOCK study help them turn things around? Will Kannapolis be the site of the next great discovery in genetic research? Only time will tell.
Biobanking and freezer software is used for a number of worthwhile causes, including the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Due to a recent change, the Los Alamos National Laboratory may be able to put these applications to good use: the lab recently updated their bioinformatics software, allowing healthcare professionals, researchers, and other users to quickly identify diseases and choose the proper therapies for conditions like cancer. This would allow them to analyze millions of samples that have been gathered and stored using biobanking software, hopefully yielding some helpful information for treatments and more.
Founded during World War II, the Los Alamos National Laboratory is one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world. While it was originally created to design nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project, the facility now conducts multidisciplinary research in a number of different fields, including nanotechnology, medicine, and renewable energy. As part of the lab's medical research, the facility decided to upgrade to the latest version of its software, Sequedex.
While laboratory software is typically associated with lab sample tracking or freezer inventory, Sequedex is used to recognize patterns in short DNA sequences. Once recognized, the system associates them with specific functions and phylogeny, or evolutionary relationships. Los Alamos scientists compare the program to a web browser search, but instead of accessing online documents, the bioinformatics software uses its search terms to connect patterns to previously-identified genomes and DNA sequences.
Sequedex can reportedly classify fragments 250,000 times faster than other methods, making it a potentially useful tool in the field of translational research. Defined as a way to improve individual and communal health by "translating" findings into diagnostic tools, medicines, procedures, policies and education, translational medicine could use Sequedex's software to analyze millions of samples currently being preserved in biobanks around the world. And with the number of tissue samples alone increasing by 20 million a year, not to mention the genetic, physical, lifestyle, and family data that typically accompanies these samples, the Los Alamos National Laboratory has plenty of information to use. Will this software update lead to the next big medical discovery, or even new therapies for common conditions? Only time will tell.
A significant part of scientific research is the collection of samples, collecting data, and drawing meaningful conclusions from that data. This might seem pretty straightforward, but anyone who has worked in a lab and overseen a high volume of samples knows that it isn't. One of the largest areas of research involves human samples, which require careful storing and inventory. At the turn of the century, there were more than 300 million tissue samples in biobanks in the United States alone, and that number grows by 20 million per year. Here's a short guide to biobanking, how it can be managed, and why management is so essential.
A biobank is basically just a repository for these samples to be collected in, stored in, and distributed from. These samples are biological materials like blood, plasma, purified DNA, saliva, and other specimens. Similarly, biobanks also hold such information and data as health records, genetic information, and lifestyle and family history. These are all stored for research in the medical and health fields.
Since there are so many samples and so much data, careful storage, freezer inventory, and careful management are essential. These samples are used for other research, so it's important that they stay organized, clearly labeled, well documented, and easily retrievable. These things are essential because research that uses these samples is often beneficial for the general public in the development of medications, procedures, diagnostic tools, education, and policies.
Managing all of these samples and the associated data is too big a job for people to do, especially since accuracy is so important. This is why the development and use of biobanking software is essential. There are a number of web enabled types of software which feature management tools like e-notebooks, instant messaging, sample tracking software, lab management systems, reference management, and scientific and general online collaboration platforms. Do you have any other questions about biobanking, management, or biobanking software? Feel free to ask us in the comments section. Read More