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What does "biobank" mean?

Specimen collections originated from living organisms are termed "biobank". Therefore there are human, animal, plant, microbiological etc. biobanks. According to another definition biobank is a specimen collection that contains genetic specimens and related database of genetic background and identity data in order to human genetic studies.

If we use this definition, we emphasize that specimens originated from living organisms have genetic data, therefore biobanks contain genetic data. GKEE consortium founded in 2003 (Genomic investigation for Human Health, http://www.humangenom.hu) in accordance with its purposes also outlined in its name is also interested in the registration of Hungarian human biobanks. Specimen collections of any human tissue are originated exclusively from volunteers (donators) who realized that specimens taken from their body will be investigated with different methods in order to improve health and scientific knowledge and that the specimens will be stored for a while after the completion of investigations. Health institutes and investigators inform the patients and donors about this fact with the use of appropriate printed materials.

Human biobanks may be grouped based on the method of gathering and the utilization:

Biobanks established for medical purposes, especially for curing purposes.

One of the most renown example for these biobanks is the "blood bank" of National Blood Institute (http://www.ovsz.hu) which is a collection of blood donated by volunteers for surgical interventions, transfusions. Of course, tissue banks from other kind of tissues are also created such as "Eye biobank" in several countries worldwide that is responsible for the collection, adequate storage and transmission for hospitals / physicians of the cornea tissue for transplantation. (For a more detailed information, please, refer to the homepage of Tissue Banks International: http://www.tbionline.org). Tissue samples are stored for a relatively short period in these biobanks as the viability of cells should not decrease during specimen collection and use (transplantation).

Specimen collections as by-products of the curative process

Specimens in these collections are taken for diagnostic purposes and, according to the official regulations, they are stored even after the establishment of diagnosis. For example, one blood-drop is taken from each neonate just after birth and the investigation of this sample may provide an opportunity to exclude or establish certain metabolic disturbances - these are the so-called Guthrie-cards, which are stored in enormous deposits in each developed countries. Similarly, tumor specimens are stored for years in fixed and conserved forms in pathologic institutes.

Specimen collections for scientific investigation.

Scientific biobanks are indispensable for scientific investigation and study of certain disorders and biologic phenomenon. Tissue specimens and investigation of extracted DNA, RNA or proteins lead to databases which provide an opportunity to understand the pathomechanism of disease, drug development, and investigation of drug effects and development of diagnostic protocols. As the designed tests are not a part of diagnostic protocols, and, in some cases, additional sampling is also required; these databases may be established exclusively after obtaining ethical permission. In the modern biobanks tissue samples are stored and conserved in several different ways in order to perform as many analyses as possible and to obtain a complex insight into the pathomechanism of disease using the most modern techniques. An integral part of scientific biobanks is the clinical database with as detailed data about the general health condition, medical history, progression of disease and treatment etc, as possible. The discoveries and observations may be interpreted only in the possession of these data. In order to guarantee the security of donors' genetic data scientific biobanks are always anonymous, i.e. the specimens and related clinical data are registered using appropriate code number (not personal identification number) and used by researchers who are allowed to use these data in favour of the patients.

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