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The analysis of human tissue and fluid samples is a cornerstone of concurrent neurological disease research that has fueled breakthrough discoveries for understanding disease pathogenesis as well as developing new therapeutic strategies. The systematic and standardized collection and storage of human samples, summarized under the term biobanking, is a key resource for biomedical research (i) to validate hallmarks of disease, (ii) to identify new potential markers that can be used in patient diagnosis e.g. to complement the targeted personalized drug treatment and (iii) to characterize genetic or protein-based changes upon interventional treatment e.g. within clinical trials. The field of biobanking has evolved in response to advances made in the biological sciences and bioinformatics as well as changing external regulatory requirements from a simple collection of tissue and fluid specimens to a virtual biobank.
With the support of NeuroCure, the Department of Neuropathology established in 2014 a BrainBank/Biobank to collect and store samples of human tissue (e.g. brain and spinal cord tissue) and body fluids (e.g. CSF): These tissues are obtained in a systematic and standardized fashion by autopsy mostly from patients with neurodegenerative diseases who have given informed consent. Human tissues are of essential value for translational (neuro)sciences, since access to CNS tissue intra vitam is, for obvious reasons, either very limited or even impossible.
Our BrainBank/Biobank team, consisting of the Director of the Department of Neuropathology, two neuropathologists, two PhD students, an autopsy assistant and the Department’s manager, is constantly working to improve the overall BrainBank/Biobank procedures aimed at providing human tissues to both clinicians and scientists thus acting as a nucleus for translational neurosciences to expand research possibilities.
The collaboration & partners
To enable the assembly of clinically well-characterized cases we already formed several collaborations with clinicians and researchers within and outside the Charité and the NeuroCure excellence cluster to ensure access to tissue of patients with neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)). Of course, we are also open and willing to envisage further collaborations on diseases other than those mentioned in order to expand the spectrum of diseases and respective research possibilities based on the intention of our collaborators to provide additional funding options covering any sort of extension beyond the ongoing BrainBank/Biobank work. An important prerequisite for any kind of disease-specific extension of the BrainBank/Biobank activities are outreach and recruitment events, along with the required education of interested/potential donors and their caregivers about the need for postmortem tissues. Moreover, awareness has to be generated that built-up of novel cohorts will take time until postmortem cases are available in sufficient numbers.
Achievements so far
With the help of our existing partners, we were already able to collect 179 informed consents, while 81 autopsies were done. From each patient, material is kept as formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) and as frozen tissue (as for the brain, the corresponding sites are stored in the one or the other way). In addition, body fluids (e.g. cerebrospinal fluids, CSF) are frozen. A complete, extensive neuropathological assessment will be done for each BrainBank/Biobank patient, the respective clinical autopsy report will be sent to the treating physician. Based on the so far established SOPs, frozen tissue is of very good quality resulting in RNA and DNA that can be used for sophisticated omics-technologies including e.g. nuclear single cell RNA sequencing.
How to get tissue/body fluids
To foster translational (neuro)science projects, we provide postmortem tissues and/or body fluids from the existing BrainBank/Biobank cases basically to the NeuroCure or broader Charité community for a defined allowance required to cover some of the BrainBank-associated costs. A proposal for tissue-provision which contains the scientific reasoning and the required tissues (quantity, type of tissue and localisation) must be submitted to the contact below. The proposal will be discussed within the BrainBank/Biobank’s tissue advisory board (nomination is in progress) based on the feasibility and scientific quality of the proposed projects as well as the availability with respect to the requested tissue/body fluids. Certainly, the BrainBank/Biobank – if required - will also give advice to those NeuroCure PIs and Charité researchers what type and quality of human material should be used in order to tackle their research hypotheses.
Dr. Helena Radbruch
+49 30 450 636 004
+49 30 450 536 940
+49 30 450 536 324
+49 30 450 536 940
Department of Neuropathology
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Campus Charité Mitte