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Biobanks will provide 'electronic specimens' for medical research
Date:2/12/2009

Future medical research will focus increasingly on electronic data, with less need both for laboratory animals and tissue samples. This long term trend emerged at a recent conference on biobanking organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF), which dealt with the challenges posed by the growing scale and complexity of research in the life sciences.

But in the more immediate future biological specimens will be required in ever greater quantities, with higher quality, for a wide variety of given experiments. Anticipation of this need provided the motivation for the many biobanks that have been created in Europe and the rest of the world over the last decade. For example a pharmaceutical company may need blood samples from individuals with specific genetic profiles in order to screen a candidate drug for damaging side effects. Equally, research into the effects of ageing may require access to samples taken from the same people at different times in order to measure changes in specific biomarkers that indicate different aspects of the process.

Biobanks therefore have to serve a wide variety of requirements, and yet conform to common standards so that researchers can obtain the samples they need readily, as was pointed out by Alberto Orfao, one of the ESF conference chairs, from the University of Salamanca in Spain.

"Different types of biobank will probably coexist, including both generic and smaller ones, depending on the specific purpose, the type of samples or collections hosted, and many other factors," said Orfao. "What seems to be clear is the need for different existing biobanks to work under harmonized frames and guidelines at the international level, so that sharing and collaboration are facilitated and fostered."

In the longer term samples will be converted into data, in effect providing researchers with the results they needed, such as the impact of ageing on biomarkers. This would reduce the need for expensive
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Contact: Alberto Orfao
orfao@usal.es
34-923-294-833
European Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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