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What are biobanks? Part 3

Biobanks are organized collections of human biological material.
As examples of biobanks no doubt the best one is to have a look at the UK Biobank, but first we have to remember that it’s already a long time that biobanks exist. In the 1960’s they began collecting samples of all new-borns in all the western countries and this was to analyse whether people, new-borns had PKU, phenylketonuria. That was very easy to analyse and that just with the specific diet these people were normal instead of being really people with lots of psychological and physical problems. In this case we could say that the collection of spots of blood of new-borns is the first kind of biobank existing.
In fact it was not very well settled in most places and there are lots of places in which these biobanks (the samples) were burnt after some time because they didn’t know what to do, but at the very end they began this kind of screening. This kind of screening is where UK Biobank is nowadays doing a really, a fantastic work of gathering lots of samples and information that is going to be used to deal with the newest problems related to health for very complex diseases, complex treatments.
In this case what they have done is to gather tissues of voluntaries; they are dealing with around 500 thousand individuals of a given age and they follow up these individuals with lots of information initially but with a follow up of many social, medical, all kinds of new data is being put together with that. For example, it goes without saying that for these people there is a very well description of their genome done by a SNP array, an imputation and then there are other data that is being gathered. For example, now they are putting together in this biobank neuroimaging that is going to be really of high interest.
In this case, this information is stored in the UK Biobank and they have even special buildings for that and they have engaged really the population. And they have taken lots of care that everything is done properly in the sense that it is ethically, legally and socially acceptable. This biobank is being used by lots of researchers and everybody recognizes that this is going to steer up research in the sense that at the very end research will be very much cheaper because they are going to use information for individuals that are being produced by others and they don’t have to produce again and again the same thing.

Biobanks are organized collections of human biological material. They are used to produce and store a lot of associated information for research purposes. How should they be dealt with?

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