A biospecimen is a sample of human tissue or biological fluid. It can include blood, plasma, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, semen, vaginal secretion, skin, teeth, bones, or other tissues or cells. Biospecimens are essential for many research projects, including cancer research and pharmacogenomics. They can help identify disease-related biomarkers that may lead to better drug development and help researchers identify the best treatment options for patients.
What is a Biospecimen?
Human biospecimens are tissue, blood, plasma and urine samples taken during surgery, biopsy or other medical procedures. Scientists use the biospecimen by working with human tissues for translational cancer research and other diseases. These are often used in research to help scientists understand cancer and other diseases and discover new treatments. When these samples are donated to a biorepository, they become available for use by researchers. These biospecimens can be accompanied by other patient information, such as medical record data, interviews with the patients, or clinical trials that the patients may have volunteered to join. This type of information is known as annotation data and can be even more valuable to scientists than the actual biospecimens themselves! Biospecimens are a valuable resource for scientists conducting biomedical and life science research. They provide insights into disease diagnosis and the discovery of future treatments that can benefit the broader population.
Types of Biospecimens
Many different types of human biospecimens can be used in clinical care, research or both. These include blood, urine, swabs, tissues, cells and DNA. These samples are collected from living or deceased humans.
In the UK, some different organizations collect and store biospecimens. They are referred to as biobanks and are responsible for collecting, processing, storing and analyzing these samples. They also provide information about the studies and research they are involved in.
Biobanks need to be managed properly, and they need to comply with the guidelines that govern them. This requires solid planning, IRB approvals and informed consent from the participants. The samples must then be stored appropriately, labeled and annotated before they are released for analysis. A biobank is a specialized organization primarily concerned with collecting, storing and analyzing human samples for research. This is their core business, and they can provide you with good support from their project managers. Although the main focus of a biobank is to collect and store samples for research purposes, they can also be used for routine clinical care. They may be a cost-effective and reliable way to get human samples.
The biobanking process includes the following:
- Obtaining permission from the IRB.
- Providing a study protocol and collecting.
- Annotating and labeling the samples before they are sent to their laboratories.
A team of experts typically does the process, and a quality assurance program should be implemented to ensure samples are collected, processed and stored safely and securely.
However, it is important to note that biobanking processes and procedures are only sometimes uniform across different countries or facilities. This can affect the quality of biobanking data.
Another important issue that needs to be considered is the potential impact of preanalytical variations on biomarkers. These factors can vary significantly from laboratory to laboratory and could influence the results of various assays.
Collection of Biospecimens
Collecting human biospecimens for research is an important component of the biobanking process. These collections are performed by medical professionals and facilitated by biobanks.
The collection process includes the following:
- Obtaining informed consent from the donor or donor’s legal representative.
- Establishing a protocol for collecting and processing the specimens.
- Providing the biospecimens to the investigator who plans to use them in his/her research study.
Specimens are then stored according to standard procedures and in biorepositories storage facilities.
Many institutions and companies offering biospecimen services have established a standard protocol for collecting various sample types commonly required by research. This helps researchers to obtain these samples quickly and easily. These standard protocols are often obtained by academic/hospital biobanks and commercial biospecimen providers, which then collect samples for many different types of research uses. These organizations also obtain ethical approval for their general collection protocols, allowing them to quickly and easily provide samples to researchers.
Once a researcher obtains the samples from a biobank, they should follow the appropriate procedures for shipping and receiving the samples. These include tracking shipments in a shipping log, labeling samples and sending them with standardized paperwork, and checking the quality of the samples received. During shipping, biospecimens should be labeled with their study number and the key investigator’s name or signature. Additionally, the courier should provide a copy of the shipping manifest and the receipt of the shipment to the biospecimen resource personnel, who will receive them and store them at the Biorepository.
Uses of Biospecimens
Biospecimens are used in a variety of studies. For example, many cancer research studies use blood and tissue samples. In addition, blood is a major component in many population studies and studies on other diseases as well. The use of biospecimens has become increasingly common in clinical research. Biospecimens availability allows researchers to understand better the biological nature of a disease, its risk factors, and treatment outcomes. This knowledge can help researchers improve patient care and develop new treatments. When conducting research with human subjects, the use of biospecimens requires careful planning. The process must be transparent and meet all legal, regulatory and ethical requirements. It must also be aligned with the informed consent document and any local or international approvals that may apply to a study.
This type of conversation is important because, in general, people are not comfortable with the idea of donating their health data or tissue for research purposes. Fortunately, there are many resources to help clinicians and their patients understand the value of biospecimen donations for cancer research.