It’s not necessarily a new game in the biomedical research town, but it’s one that’s been increasing in rapid popularity over the last few years. It’s called biobanking and has been around since the late 1990s. In 2000, there was an estimated 300+ million tissue samples in biobanks just in the United States and since than, has been growing by 20 million samples a year. The numbers show the growing use of biobanks: almost two-thirds of biobanks currently in use were established in the last ten years (although 17% have been around for over 20 years). Medical researchers use biobanking as a means to obtain a laboratory sample for cutting edge research: such as translational research, or even in some cases, for environmental research–what things can affect us, etc.
What Is A Biobank?
A biobank is a type of biorepository, which means it’s a place that accumulates, takes care of, reserves, and gives out specimens to scientists for research. A biobank usually stores human samples and is naturally rife with various systems to keep things secure and running smoothly. It would be normal to find freezer inventory software, lab sample tracking software, and sample management software within a biobank, for example. Almost 45% of biobanks had pediatric specimens, with a little over 35% containing postmortem specimens as well.
Why Have Biobanks?
Biobanks are a great source of material for researchers to use, especially when trying to research a specific disease or other anomaly. Over 50% of biobanks reported that the number one reason for their establishment was due to researching a specific disease, while only 29% were established for general research. With so many specimens, researchers can do cross research and really narrow down what they’re looking for. Specimens are arranged via genetic traits, among others, as well as by age, gender, ethnicity, and even blood type. If the specimen was exposed to potentially damaging environmental factors, it’s categorized that way as well.
Biobanking offers particular collections for researchers, which can help them greatly in narrowing down other factors in their research, abundant in human DNA. The very make up of the cell and how it is developed or can be affected is monumental to the progress of research.
What Funds Biobanks?
Generally, the federal government provides the most funding for biobanks. For over 35% of biobanks, the government was their top donor. The government also assisted almost 60% of all biobanks with some kind of finances in the last five years.
However, biobanks also source funding from service fees (a primary source of income for 11% of biobanks and a long term five year source for almost 45%). Foundations and individuals also sponsor biobanks–about 10% of biobanks receive their primary funding this way, while 40% use it as a longer term five year plan.
In many cases, people can volunteer samples–many people do this especially if a loved one is sick or has died of an illness the scientists are studying. Additionally, some people who suffer from a particular disease may offer samples to biobanks for scientists to study and hopefully make advances on curing the disease.
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