What is a biobank?
The Sanford Health BioBank is a collection of biological samples and general health information from thousands of people for use in future research studies. The samples are stored and serve as a library for researchers. The BioBank greatly accelerates research because now, instead of spending a lot of time recruiting volunteers for each new research study, scientists have access to a large collection of blood and DNA samples along with medical histories all in one place.
What do researchers do with samples from a biobank?
The BioBank collects blood and tissue samples that can be used for future research purposes. Blood samples are processed to provide plasma, serum and DNA samples from each participant. These samples can be used for a variety of research. For example, a researcher may wish to study DNA from a single person, or a large group of people depending on what they are looking for. DNA carries genetic information in segments known as genes that represent an individual’s genetic code. Our genes are what make us different thanks to very small changes in the DNA. It is why, with the exception of identical twins, no two people are alike. Sometimes changes in DNA can lead to disease.
By using DNA samples to study these changes, researchers better understand the cause of disease, how to treat it and how it might be prevented. In other cases, researchers may want to look at levels of specific molecules, such as proteins, hormones, or chemicals, in your blood which can be done using the plasma or serum samples stored in the biobank.
How important are biobanks?
Biobanks are a very important part of conducting medical research and have aided many scientists studying a variety of different diseases. Researchers use your samples, along with samples from many others, to look for new ways to treat, prevent, or cure diseases such as diabetes and cancer.