News Feature | January 8, 2014

NIH Consolidates Biorepositories Into One Program

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By Cassandra Leger

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it is spearheading a new program, meant to expedite research designed to treat brain disorders. Its new biospecimens biorepository will become a virtual open library for brain tissue specimens that can be used for research. According to NIH, their new NeuroBioBank project, unveiled in December, will serve as a web-based resource. Its main function will be to compact five primary brain banks and gear them forward into a network vision designed for the neuroscience community.

Europe already has a similar program in place, which is the model after which NIH’s NeuroBioBank is designed. According to Thomas Insel, MD, the current director of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the initiative will consolidate the amount of time the neuroscience community spends looking for available tissue specimens, “Instead of having to seek out brain tissue needed for a study from scattered repositories, researchers will have one-stop access to the specimens they need.”

The NIMH is currently funding the program along with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The initiative is expected to have brain tissue specimens from 5 of the most coveted brain banks which include Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Harvard University, and the University of Pittsburgh.

The brain specimens currently in stock at these brain banks are received via donations, after which they are stored and distributed only to qualified researchers and experts in the field. Most of the research performed on the brain tissue is conducted with the intention of finding viable treatments and even cures for neurological diseases. The NeuroBioBank, along with the other brain biorepositories, will continue to obtain specimens wherever they can, and also accept healthy specimens for control purposes.

NICHD director Alan Guttmacher, MD stated “The NIH NeuroBioBank will offer economies of scale, increase availability of biospecimens, establish a standardized system, and raise public awareness of the importance of human brain research.” The initiative also welcomes other brain banks to join the project in order to broaden the potential of the program.