Biobanking for cell culture gives collaborating researchers access to highly sensitive samples. Concerns in traditional biobanking methods have left some researchers frustrated. Difficulties obtaining samples and having access to relevant samples, being unable to find adequate experimental controls, and finding samples kept in poor conditions have slowed the progress of research, says Joshua LaBaer, who recently published an article describing five objectives that will improve this process.1
Considerable amounts of money have been invested in Biobanking worldwide. In the US, funding for biocenters often comes through programs associated with the NIH, including nine million dollars from the National Cancer Institute supporting clinical trials and sample collection programs. According to LaBaer, the key to ensuring that there is funding available for future biobanking endeavors is to first assess existing resources, correct any issues present, and support future needs based on predictions of how much additional funding may be needed.
Lack of standardized protocols can pose a problem to researchers. Protein samples, in particular, can be affected by differing handling procedures. LaBaer suggests that a library of protocols be established to increase the access to optimal methods of preparing samples for storage. He suggests the protocols be given ID numbers to be attached to samples and be published in relevant IRB board reviews and manuscripts.
Another proposed improvement is the identification of known reference proteins. These references include quantitative reference proteins that are similar to housekeeping genes in genetic studies. They allow quantitative comparisons from multiple investigators. Sample integrity reference proteins are needed as well. These proteins are sensitive to the same level of protein degradation as the protein of interest. Cell type-speciﬁc reference proteins are also important to account for differing ratios of cells of interest.
Lastly, Baer stresses the importance of building partnerships with the public. Patients are much more willing to participate in research studies if they can see the impact of their part in the research storyline. This leads to advocating for greater awareness of the need for further research.
The future of proteomics work is highly dependent on biobanking. In order to further the work, these concerns should be addressed through thoughtful study and collaborative analysis within groups such as HUPO, ISBER, and others.
1. LaBaer, J. (2012) ‘Improving international research with clinical specimens: 5 achievable objectives‘, Journal of Proteome Research, 11 (12), (pp. 5592-5601)