Biobanking is the process in which human biological samples are collected, organized and stored in a systematic way for research or future research.

Samples include human tissue samples or bodily fluids, such as blood, urine, saliva, etc. Biobanks also collect various data such as height, weight, and information relating to health such as family history and lifestyle.

Depending on the study, human biological samples can be kept indefinitely for medical research purposes.

The data collected in biobanking are a critical resource in health and science research studies and understanding human diseases.

The Evolution of Biobanking

Biobanking has grown exponentially from its humble beginnings as small, predominantly college-based collections developed for research project needs. Gradually, they have evolved into institutional and government-supported repositories, commercial biorepositories, population-based biobanks, and virtual biobanks. The data collected for biobanks have also developed from a simplistic date of collection and diagnosis to extensive information that covers a participant’s phenotype, genetic or other information.

The creation of imaging biobanks is a relatively new evolution of data collection. Imaging biobanks are a database of medical images — such as radiology, ultrasound and more — that can help researchers define or validate new imaging biomarkers for a diagnosis. The sharing of these kinds of images are an important part of clinical trials, research and training.

Today, ethical issues such as the informed consent model, sample ownership, veto rights, and the sustainability of biobanks are pressing topics. International organizations such as the Biomolecular Resource Research Infrastructure (BBMRI) play a role in uniting differing biobank principles and support national biobank activities.

Why is Biobanking Important?

In short, biobanks collect biological or digital material with well-annotated human biological and clinical data. Organized national biobank research infrastructures allow for large-scale analysis for the individuation of particular disease biomarkers.

In other words, biobanks serve as a library for medical researchers and have helped aid many research studies that have resulted in important discoveries in genetic research.

For example, researchers used samples from biobanks to learn more about safe and effective treatment medications to treat heart disease. Biobanks have also helped drive medical research that studies the genetic changes that may increase a person’s risk of certain cancers, osteoporosis, or asthma.

With the proper attention to quality control in the collection of samples, modern biobanks are a crucial part of disease diagnosis and prognosis.

How Do Samples Get Into a Biobank?

Best practices for biobanks start with the consideration of human dignity, which includes informed consent, when collecting samples.

Before adding a sample to the biobank, informed consent from the subject (or legal guardian) must be given. All personal data related to the sample, such as name and address, is regulated, and samples are coded to ensure the donor is as anonymous as possible.

Samples are generally collected by a healthcare professional or clinical staff member during a hospital procedure. After lab tests and surgeries, sometimes samples of blood, urine, stool, saliva, or human tissue are leftover. Provided that the subject gave consent, samples are added to the bank.

Samples are either refrigerated or frozen before being routed to the biobank for processing and storage. During the lifespan of the sample, the temperature of the specimen is monitored closely to ensure sample quality and viability.

Biobanking Sample Storage

With the critical role that biobanking plays in the medical research field, it’s essential to have safe and secure storage that protects the sample’s long-term integrity.

Stirling Ultracold offers reliable and environmentally sustainable ultra-low temperature (ULT) storage solutions which operate between -20°C and -86°C. Our Compact SU105UE and upright SU780XLE ULT freezers are ideal for storing biobank samples. For further information, contact Stirling Ultracold today!