Background: Today, no consensus exists regarding how human tissues are best preserved for long-term storage. Very low temperature storage in liquid nitrogen is often advocated as the superlative method for extended periods, but storage in −80 degrees Celsius (−80°C) freezers, while sometimes debated, is a possible alternative. RNA is the most easily degradable component of a biological sample in a molecular biology context and the quality can reliably be measured.
Aim: To investigate to what extent long-term storage of tissues in −80°C affects the RNA quality and overall histomorphology. The tissue storage period represents nearly three decades (1986–2013).
Methods: RNA extraction from 153 tissue samples with different storage periods was performed with the mirVana kit (Invitrogen). RNA integrity was assessed using an Agilent bioanalyzer to obtain RNA integrity numbers (RIN). Further, tissue representative testing using light microscopy was performed by two pathologists to assess tissue composition and morphology.
Results: RIN values were measured in all samples, showing a variability that did not correlate with the storage time of the tissues. Microscopically, all samples displayed acceptable tissue morphology regardless of storage time.
Conclusion: Long-term storage in −80°C does not adversely affect the quality of the RNA extracted from the stored tissues, and the tissue morphology is maintained to a good standard.
Biorepositories offer tremendous scientific value to a wide variety of customer groups (academic, commercial, industrial) in their ability to deliver a centralized, standardized service model, encompassing both biospecimen storage and related laboratory services. Generally, the scientific expertise and economies of scale that are offered in centralized, properly resourced research biobanks has yielded value that has been well-recognized by universities, pharmaceutical companies, and other sponsoring institutions. However, like many facets of the economy, biobanks have been under increasing cost pressure in recent years. This has been a particular problem in the academic arena, where direct support from grant sources (both governmental and philanthropic) typically now is more difficult to secure, or provides reduced financial support, relative to previous years. One way to address this challenge is to establish or enhance a well-defined fee-for-service model which is properly calibrated to cover operational costs while still offering competitive value to users. In this model, customers are never charged for the biospecimens themselves, but rather for the laboratory services associated with them. Good communication practices, proper assessment of value, implementation of best practices, and a sound business plan are all needed for this initiative to succeed. Here we summarize our experiences at Washington University School of Medicine in the expectation they will be useful to others.
Well-characterized, high-quality fresh-frozen prostate tissue is required for prostate cancer research. As part of the PROCURE Prostate Cancer Biobank launched in 2007, four University Hospitals in Quebec joined to bank fresh frozen prostate tissues from radical prostatectomies (RP). As the biobank progressed towards allocation, the nature and quality of the tissues were determined. RP tissues were collected by standardized alternate mirror-image or biopsy-based targeted methods, and frozen for banking. Clinical/pathological parameters were captured. For quality control, two presumed benign and two presumed cancerous frozen, biobanked tissue blocks per case (10/site) were randomly selected during the five years of collection. In a consensus meeting, 4 pathologists blindly evaluated slides (n=160) and graded quality, Gleason score (GS), and size of cancer foci. The quality of tissue RNA (37/40 cases) was assessed using the RNA Integrity Number. The biobank included 1819 patients of mean age: 62.1 years; serum PSA: 8ng/ml; prostate weight: 47.8 g; GS: 7; and pathological stage: T2 in 64.5%, T3A in 25.5% and T3B in 10% of cases. Of the 157 evaluable slides, 79 and 78 had benign and cancer tissue, respectively. GS for the 37 cancer-positive cases were: 6 in 9, 7 in 18 and >7 in 10 and, in most instances, in concordance with final GS. In 40% of slides containing cancer, foci occupied ≥50% of block surface and 42% had a diameter ≥1 cm. Tissue was well preserved and consistently yielded RNA of very good quality with RNA Integrity Number (RIN) >7 for 97% of cases (mean=8.7±0.7) during the five-year collection period. This study confirms the high quality of randomly selected benign and cancerous fresh-frozen prostate tissues of the PROCURE Quebec Prostate Cancer Biobank. These results strengthen the uniqueness of this large prospective resource for prostate cancer research.
In Italy, a country that is experiencing the decentralization of health services from central to regional level of government, the Minister of Health is proposing stewardship as a model of governance for the public health system. Stewardship favors efficiency in the policy decision-making process, based on reciprocal trust, and tends to be more ethical. The embryonic proposal to test stewardship in the field of population-based research was advanced during the launching conference Challenges and Opportunities of the Italian Hub of Population Biobanks (HIBP) held in 2012 in Rome. Resources collected by population biobanks (i.e., blood and its derivatives, and/or DNA isolated from any type of biological samples and relative associated data) have, in fact, a recognized scientific value for the investigation of links between genetics, health and life style, and epidemiological outcomes through population biobank-based studies, and are essential to planning effective and qualified interventions for public health. The current economic crisis requires a strong push to rationalize investment in health policies. In particular, population biobank-based studies require financial commitment, often of long duration, for the realization of their goals. Thus, innovative solutions to allow fast integration of scientific knowledge into political health strategy are required. During the conference in Rome, it was proposed to test the stewardship model by its application to the inter-relationship between population biobank-based studies and disease prevention. Stewardship minimizes barriers to innovation and uses information more effectively to better develop new strategies for prevention and/or treatment. In the months following the conference, the proposal was defined more clearly, and the HIBP network became a potential tool for testing and implementing this model in the Italian Public Health prevention system.
The ethical-legal framework of research biobanking activities is still scarcely defined in Italy, and this constitutes a major obstacle to exploit the potential benefits of existing bioresource patrimony at the national and international levels.
Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI), which aims to become a major interface between biological samples and data and top-level biological and medical research, is undertaking the crucial transformation to the ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) legal entity. In this scenario, there is a need to address the national legal and ethical concerns that are strictly correlated with the use of human biosources in research across European countries participating (and not) in BBMRI. In this perspective, this article aims to review the legal framework applying to research biobanking in Italy, including both “soft” nonbinding instruments and binding regulations. Since ethical and societal aspects impact biobanking research activities, the article discusses both the critical ethical and legal open issues that need to be implemented at the national level.
Informatics systems, particularly those that provide capabilities for data storage, specimen tracking, retrieval, and order fulfillment, are critical to the success of biorepositories and other laboratories engaged in translational medical research. A crucial item—one easily overlooked—is an efficient way to receive and process investigator-initiated requests. A successful electronic ordering system should allow request processing in a maximally efficient manner, while also allowing streamlined tracking and mining of request data such as turnaround times and numerical categorizations (user groups, funding sources, protocols, and so on). Ideally, an electronic ordering system also facilitates the initial contact between the laboratory and customers, while still allowing for downstream communications and other steps toward scientific partnerships. We describe here the recently established Web-based ordering system for the biorepository at Washington University Medical Center, along with its benefits for workflow, tracking, and customer service. Because of the system's numerous value-added impacts, we think our experience can serve as a good model for other customer-focused biorepositories, especially those currently using manual or non-Web–based request systems. Our lessons learned also apply to the informatics developers who serve such biobanks.
We present a novel noninvasive technology for quality control in biobanking. We implemented a contactless optical in situ method with a remote detection unit. The method detects physical and chemical changes by emission spectroscopy. In the present study, ice formation in a vitrified sample is revealed by Raman scattering. The technology allows us to monitor sample quality during cold storage and to assess the sample state after preservation, storage, or transport without the need for thawing.
Megakaryocytes (MKs) are the precursor cells of platelets. Cryopreservation of MKs is critical for facilitating research investigations about the biology of this important cell and may help for scaling-up ex-vivo production of platelets from MKs for clinical transfusion. Determining membrane transport properties of MKs to water and cryoprotectant agents (CPAs) is essential for developing optimal conditions for cryopreserving MKs. To obtain these unknown parameters, membrane transport properties of the human UT-7/TPO megakaryocytic cell line were investigated using a microfluidic perfusion system. UT-7/TPO cells were immobilized in a microfluidic system on poly-D-lysine-coated glass substrate and perfused with various hyper-osmotic salt and CPA solutions at suprazero and subzero temperatures. The kinetics of cell volume changes under various extracellular conditions were monitored by a video camera and the information was processed and analyzed using the Kedem–Katchalsky model to determine the membrane transport properties. The osmotically inactive cell volume (Vb=0.15), the permeability coefficient to water (Lp) at 37°C, 22°C, 12°C, 0°C, −5°C, −10°C, and −20°C, and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO; Ps) at 22, 12, 0, −10, −20, as well as associated activation energies of water and DMSO at different temperature regions were obtained. We found that MKs have relatively higher membrane permeability to water (Lp=2.62 μm/min/atm at 22°C) and DMSO (Ps=1.8×10−3 cm/min at 22°C) than most other common mammalian cell types, such as lymphocytes (Lp=0.46 μm/min/atm at 25°C). This information could suggest a higher optimal cooling rate for MKs cryopreservation. The discontinuity effect was also found on activation energy at 0°C–12°C in the Arrhenius plots of membrane permeability by evaluating the slope of linear regression at each temperature region. This phenomenon may imply the occurrence of cell membrane lipid phase transition.
Quantitative description of the non-ideal solution thermodynamics of the cytoplasm of a living mammalian cell is critically necessary in mathematical modeling of cryobiology and desiccation and other fields where the passive osmotic response of a cell plays a role. In the solution thermodynamics osmotic virial equation, the quadratic correction to the linear ideal, dilute solution theory is described by the second osmotic virial coefficient. Herein we report, for the first time, intracellular solution second osmotic virial coefficients for four cell types [TF-1 hematopoietic stem cells, human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC), porcine hepatocytes, and porcine chondrocytes] and further report second osmotic virial coefficients indistinguishable from zero (for the concentration range studied) for human hepatocytes and mouse oocytes.
Etude Longitudinale Française depuis l'Enfance (ELFE) will be a national French cohort of 20,000 children followed from birth to adulthood. Biological samples will be taken at birth to evaluate the fetal exposition to several substances. A pilot study was carried out in October 2007 to test the preanalytical factors that affected sample quality. A variety of fractions were collected by the midwife after delivery from different blood collection tubes. Options in the collection process were 2 daily transports of samples, centralized and standardized processing methodology, and storage of multiple aliquots in liquid nitrogen or at −80°C. We analyzed preanalytical factors that could have affected coagulation and then soluble CD40 Ligand (sCD40L) as a quality control tool for serum quality. Cord blood and urine were collected from 82% and 84% of women, respectively, who agreed to be followed up in the ELFE project. The use of syringe was the main factor correlated with coagulation (relative risk: 2.79 [1.47; 5.31], P<0.01). Maternity unit status was also associated with coagulation (RR: 1.48 [1.03; 2.13] in a private maternity unit vs. a public maternity) as well as time between collection and centrifugation (RR 1.03 [1; 1.07] when time between collection and centrifugation increases from 1 h). There were no extremely low sCD40L values indicating extreme exposures to room temperatures. This first evaluation study allowed us to stress the importance of carefully recording all potentially critical preanalytical variables that might be used at a large-scale level.
The Infectious Diseases BioBank (IDB) has consistently archived peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMNC) RNA for transcriptome analyses. RNA is particularly labile, and hence, these samples provide a sensitive indicator for assessing the IDB's quality-assurance measures. Independent analyses of 104 PBMNC RNA specimens from 26 volunteers revealed that the mean RNA integrity number (RIN) was high (9.02), although RIN ranged between scores of 7 and 10. This variation of RIN values was not associated with ischemic time, PBMNC quality, number of samples processed per day, self-medication after immunization, freezer location, donor characteristics, differential white blood cell counts, or daily variation in RNA extractions (all P>0.05). RIN values were related to the date of collection, with those processed during mid-summer having highest RIN scores (P=0.0001). Amongst specimens with the lowest RIN scores, no common feature could be identified. Thus, no technical explanation for the variation in RNA quality could be ascertained and these may represent normal physiological variations. These data provide strong evidence that current IDB protocols for the isolation and preservation PBMNC RNA are robust.
Biobanks have a primary responsibility to collect tissues that are a true reflection of their local population and thereby promote translational research, which is applicable to the community. The Infectious Diseases BioBank (IDB) at King's College London is located in the southeast of the city, an area that is ethnically diverse. Transplantation programs have frequently reported a low rate of donation among some ethnic minorities. To determine whether patients who volunteered peripheral venous blood samples to the IDB were representative of the local community, we compared local government demographic data to characteristics of patients who have donated to the IDB. There was a good match between these statistics, indicating that the IDB's volunteer population of human immunodeficiency virus patients was similar to local demographics.
Academic hospitals and medical schools with research tissue repositories often derive many of their internal human specimen acquisitions from their site's surgical pathology service. Typically, such acquisitions come from appropriately consented tissue discards sampled from surgical resections. Because the practice of surgical pathology has patient care as its primary mission, competing needs for tissue inevitably arise, with the requirement to preserve adequate tissue for clinical diagnosis being paramount. A set of best-practice gross pathology guidelines are summarized here, focused on the decision for tissue banking at the time specimens are macroscopically evaluated. These reflect our collective experience at Washington University School of Medicine, and are written from the point of view of our site biorepository. The involvement of trained pathology personnel in such procurements is very important. These guidelines reflect both good surgical pathology practice (including the pathologic features characteristic of various anatomic sites) and the typical objectives of research biorepositories. The guidelines should be helpful to tissue bank directors, and others charged with the procurement of tissues for general research purposes. We believe that appreciation of these principles will facilitate the partnership between surgical pathologists and biorepository directors, and promote both good patient care and strategic, value-added banking procurements.
Human biospecimens are subject to a number of different collection, processing, and storage factors that can significantly alter their molecular composition and consistency. These biospecimen preanalytical factors, in turn, influence experimental outcomes and the ability to reproduce scientific results. Currently, the extent and type of information specific to the biospecimen preanalytical conditions reported in scientific publications and regulatory submissions varies widely. To improve the quality of research utilizing human tissues, it is critical that information regarding the handling of biospecimens be reported in a thorough, accurate, and standardized manner. The Biospecimen Reporting for Improved Study Quality recommendations outlined herein are intended to apply to any study in which human biospecimens are used. The purpose of reporting these details is to supply others, from researchers to regulators, with more consistent and standardized information to better evaluate, interpret, compare, and reproduce the experimental results. The Biospecimen Reporting for Improved Study Quality guidelines are proposed as an important and timely resource tool to strengthen communication and publications around biospecimen-related research and help reassure patient contributors and the advocacy community that the contributions are valued and respected.
The Saint James's Hospital Biobank was established in 2008, to develop a high-quality breast tissue BioResource, as a part of the breast cancer clinical care pathway. The aims of this work were: (1) to ascertain the quality of RNA, DNA, and protein in biobanked carcinomas and normal breast tissues, (2) to assess the efficacy of AllPrep® (Qiagen) in isolating RNA, DNA, and protein simultaneously, (3) to compare AllPrep with RNEasy® and QIAamp® (both Qiagen), and (4) to examine the effectiveness of Allprotect® (Qiagen), a new tissue stabilization medium in preserving DNA, RNA, and proteins. One hundred eleven frozen samples of carcinoma and normal breast tissue were analyzed. Tumor and normal tissue morphology were confirmed by frozen sections. Tissue type, tissue treatment (Allprotect vs. no Allprotect), extraction kit, and nucleic acid quantification were analyzed by utilizing a 4 factorial design (SPSS PASW 18 Statistics Software®). QIAamp (DNA isolation), AllPrep (DNA, RNA, and Protein isolation), and RNeasy (RNA isolation) kits were assessed and compared. Mean DNA yield and A260/280 values using QIAamp were 33.2 ng/μL and 1.86, respectively, and using AllPrep were 23.2 ng/μL and 1.94. Mean RNA yield and RNA Integrity Number (RIN) values with RNeasy were 73.4 ng/μL and 8.16, respectively, and with AllPrep were 74.8 ng/μL and 7.92. Allprotect-treated tissues produced higher RIN values of borderline significance (P=0.055). No discernible loss of RNA stability was detected after 6 h incubation of stabilized or nonstabilized tissues at room temperature or 4°C or in 9 freeze-thaw cycles. Allprotect requires further detailed evaluation, but we consider AllPrep to be an excellent option for the simultaneous extraction of RNA, DNA, and protein from tumor and normal breast tissues. The essential presampling procedures that maintain the diagnostic integrity of pathology specimens do not appear to compromise the quality of molecular isolates.
Human tissue biorepositories have an increasingly visible and important role within industrial enterprises in supporting biomedical research, including the rapidly advancing fields of proteomics, pharmacogenomics, and molecular epidemiology. Pathologists play a vital but often underrecognized role in the operation of these tissue banks. Besides interpreting studies that arise from banked samples, pathologists are needed to characterize tissues for research, to conduct quality assurance programs, to assist with resource allocation decisions, and to serve an educational role for investigators using the tissues. This article describes these key principles and illustrates examples where pathologist involvement is crucial to biorepository management. Of overarching importance, pathologists play a critical role in helping biorepository users understand the principles of specimen evaluation (histologic and structural composition of tissues, and their limitations) so as to optimize the scientific benefit of the tissues. In conclusion, greater involvement of pathologists in research tissue banking will enhance the scientific utility of biorepositories.
Pfizer, Inc.'s Tissue Bank, in conjunction with Pfizer's BioBank (biofluid repository), endeavored to create an overarching internal software package to cover all general functions of both research facilities, including sample receipt, reconciliation, processing, storage, and ordering. Business process flow diagrams were developed by the Tissue Bank and Informatics teams as a way of characterizing best practices both within the Bank and in its interactions with key internal and external stakeholders. Besides serving as a first step for the software development, such formalized process maps greatly assisted the identification and communication of best practices and the optimization of current procedures. The diagrams shared here could assist other biospecimen research repositories (both pharmaceutical and other settings) for comparative purposes or as a guide to successful informatics design. Therefore, it is recommended that biorepositories consider establishing formalized business process flow diagrams for their laboratories, to address these objectives of communication and strategy.
The ability to analyze cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from biobanks for antigen-specific T-cell immunity is necessary to evaluate responses to immune-based therapies. Comprehensive studies have demonstrated that the quality of frozen PBMCs is critical and the maintenance of cell viability and functionality by using appropriate cryopreservation techniques is a key to the successful outcome of assays using PBMCs. Different cryomedia additives affect cell viability. The most common additive is fetal calf serum (FCS), although it is widely known that each FCS lot has to be tested before usage to prevent nonspecific stimulation of T-cells. Also, shipping of samples containing FCS is critical because of many import restrictions. Often, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is added as a cryoprotectant. However, DMSO concentration has to be reduced significantly because of its toxic effect on cells at room temperature. Therefore, we have developed freezing approaches to minimize cytotoxicity of cryoprotectants and maintain T-cell functionality. We compared different additives to the widely used FCS and found bovine serum albumin fraction V to be an appropriate substitute for the potentially immune-modulating FCS. We also found that DMSO concentration can be reduced by the addition of hydroxyethyl starch. Using our serum-free cryomedia, the PBMC recovery was more than 83% and the PBMC viability was more than 98%. Also, the T-cell functionality measured by enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISpot) was optimal after cryopreservation with our new cryomedia. On the basis of our experimental results, we could finally design 2 different, fully working cryomedia that are standardized, serum free, and manufactured under GMP conditions.
There is a rising need for biomaterial in dermatological research with regard to both quality and quantity. Research biobanks as organized collections of biological material with associated personal and clinical data are of increasing importance. Besides technological/methodological and legal aspects, the willingness to donate samples by patients and healthy volunteers is a key success factor. To analyze the theoretical willingness to donate blood and skin samples, we developed and distributed a questionnaire. Six hundred nineteen questionnaires were returned and analyzed. The willingness to donate samples of blood (82.5%) and skin (58.7%) is high among the population analyzed and seems to be largely independent of any expense allowance. People working in the healthcare system, dermatological patients, and higher qualified individuals seem to be in particular willing to donate material. An adequate patient insurance as well as an extensive education about risks and benefits is requested. In summary, there is a high willingness to donate biological samples for dermatological research. This theoretical awareness fits well with our own experiences in establishing such a biobank.
In the analysis of peripheral blood gene expression, timely processing of samples is essential to ensure that measurements reflect in vivo biology, rather than ex vivo sample processing variables. The effect of processing delays on global gene expression patterns in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was assessed by isolating and stabilizing PBMC-derived RNA from 3 individuals either immediately after phlebotomy or after a 4 h delay. RNA was labeled using NuGEN Ovation labeling and probed using the Affymetrix HG U133 Plus 2.0 GeneChip®. Comparison of gene expression levels (≥2-fold expression change and P < 0.05) identified 307 probe sets representing genes with increased expression and 46 indicating decreased expression after 4 h. These differentially expressed genes include many that are important to inflammatory, immunologic, and cancer pathways. Among others, CCR2, CCR5, TLR10, CD180, and IL-16 have decreased expression, whereas VEGF, IL8, SOCS2, SOCS3, CD69, and CD83 have increased expression after a 4 h processing delay. The trends in expression patterns associated with delayed processing were also apparent in an independent set of 276 arrays of RNA from human PBMC samples with varying processing times. These data indicate that the time between sample acquisition, initiation of processing, and when the RNA is stabilized should be a prime consideration when designing protocols for translational studies involving PBMC gene expression analysis.
Molecular data, essential for genomics research, can be captured more efficiently in large-scale, population-based biobanks of genetic material rather than by individual studies. Biobanks also offer improved quality and reliability of genetic samples and access through automated sample retrieval. However, it is challenging to adequately inform participants of the broad nature of the research and participation risks and benefits. In addition, recent studies suggest concerns about data sharing and return of research results, or future research topics (eg, stereotypical or potentially stigmatizing traits). We evaluated the interest in participating in a biobank and reasons for nonparticipation.
As advances in medical technology improve the efficacy of cell and tissue transplantation, a void remains in our knowledge base as to the specific molecular responses of cells to low-temperature storage. While much focus has been given to solution formulation for tissue perfusion during storage, investigations into cold exposure-induced complex molecular changes remain limited. The intent of this study was to quantify the levels of cell death following hypothermic storage in a lung cell model, establishing a foundation for future in-depth molecular analysis. Normal human lung fibroblasts (IMR-90) were stored for 1 day or 2 days and small airway epithelial cells (SAEC) were stored for 5 days or 7 days at 4°C in complete media, ViaSpan, or ViaSpan + pan-caspase (VI) inhibitor. (Poststorage viability was assessed for 3 days using alamarBlue™.) Sample analysis revealed that IMR-90 cells stored in ViaSpan remained 80% (±9) viable after 1 day of storage and 21% (±7) viable after 2 days of storage. SAEC cells stored in ViaSpan remained 81% (±5) viable after 5 days and 28% (±7) after 7 days. Microfluidic flow cytometry analysis of the apoptotic and necrotic populations in the ViaSpan-stored samples revealed that in the IMR-90 cells stored for 2 days, 7% of the population was apoptotic at 4-h poststorage, while ∼70% was identified as necrotic. Analysis of the SAEC cell system following 7 days of ViaSpan storage revealed an apoptotic peak of 19% at 4-h poststorage and a corresponding necrotic peak of 19%. Caspase inhibition during hypothermic storage increased viability 33% for IMR-90 and 25% for SAEC. Data revealed a similar pattern of cell death, through both apoptosis and necrosis, once the onset of cold storage failure began, implying a potential conserved mechanism of cold-induced cell death. These data highlight the critical need for a more in-depth understanding of the molecular changes that occur as a result of cold exposure in cells and tissues.