From blood and saliva to tumours and teeth, donated human tissue samples take a variety of forms. But why would anyone be interested in storing these samples? And what do they do with them? Dr Emma Lawrence, Project and Engagement Manager at the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre, describes the biobank sample journey, from patients to scientific discoveries.
Dr Emma Lawrence
Human tissue samples can be taken for a number of reasons. But most frequently they are used for diagnosing disease. Often, the entire sample is not needed for this purpose and patients can be asked if they want to donate the tissue for medical research.
Today, the UK Biobank has launched the largest body scanning project in the world. Funded by the MRC, Wellcome Trust and British Heart Foundation, the biobank will scan 100,000 people to provide images of their brains, hearts, bones, carotid arteries and abdominal fat. Head of the Division of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London Professor Paul Matthews is one of the academic experts who have been supporting UK Biobank to create this resource and he tells us how it could prove invaluable to all areas of medicine.
Building the bank
Over 10 years, the UK Biobank has recruited and gathered a wealth of high quality information from 500,000 people across the country. These people have donated blood, urine and saliva samples, provided detailed health, lifestyle and environment information and agreed to allow the biobank to follow their GP and hospital records throughout life.
Now we will be adding sophisticated imaging to enrich our understanding of the origins and progression of the major diseases of later life. Read more
The immense value of UK Biobank as a resource for studying the genetics behind complex traits and diseases is demonstrated for the first time in a genetic study of lung health, published today. With all genotype data from UK Biobank to be made available next year, here Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Leicester Martin Tobin shares his experience and exciting study findings.
The ALICE super computer at the University of Leicester, which processed the data (Image credit: University of Leicester)
UK Biobank is the largest European biobank available to date. Set up in 2006 and part-funded by the MRC, it is a huge resource containing data from 502,682 UK individuals. Participants have provided a range of information about their lifestyles, physical characteristics and health, and they will be followed up for at least 25 years.
We were really excited about the potential value of this data to our research which led us to conduct the first ever genetic association analyses in UK Biobank, the UK Biobank Lung Exome Variant Evaluation (UK BiLEVE) study.
By extracting DNA from participants’ banked blood samples, we analysed the genomes of a subset of UK Biobank participants, 50,008 in total selected according to their measures of lung health and whether or not they smoked. Read more