Article Index

Biobanks – Archives for Lung Research

What is a Biobank?

In banks for human biomaterials we systematically store samples such as tissue, cells and blood, or DNA or proteins isolated from human blood, on a long-term basis. In addition, we collect medical data from the patient/donor of the materials. So, in essence, a biobank is the combination of a collection of biomaterial samples together with the relevant medical data such as age, medical history and life circumstances. Only by means of connecting such information is it possible to, systematically, research causes and mechanisms of certain diseases. This research, in turn, creates the basis for the development of new and improved therapies.

 

In Brief:

In biobanks we systematically collect and store biological material from the human organism combined with the corresponding medical data in order to make them available for medical research.

The idea to store human tissue and organs is not novel. Especially universities have anatomic and pathologic collections and many of them have been in existence for centuries. For the longest time it was not possible to store these materials in a fashion that would not compromise their biological characteristics. Thanks to cryo-conservation, rapid freezing of the material at extreme temperatures, and the development of stabilizing agents, this has changed. Furthermore, various techniques have been developed that allow for rapid analysis of many liquid- and/or tissue samples. Paired with the rapid development in computer technology, storage and processing of biomaterials and their corresponding data has become considerably easier. 

 

All this has contributed to the fact that, today, biobanks are considered one of the great beacons of hope for medical research in the 21st century. In this mind frame, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) initiated the „National Biomaterialbanks-Initiative” (http://www.gesundheitsforschung-bmbf.de/de/2638.php). It was started in 2011 and supports the work of five higher education institutions with a total of 18 Million Euro. The expressed goal of the initiative is to create a basis for becoming the leader in international biobank-based research.

 

Useful Information:

Despite the rapid increase in importance of biobanks, they are still mostly unknown among the European population. A 2010 EU poll revealed that 67% of all interviewees claimed to have never heard the term biobank before.