The world’s first pig biobank


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A recent edition of Nature discusses a repository at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU), Germany of pig samples from a genetically engineered pig model of diabetes (Abbott, A. (2015) Nature 519: 397-8). Samples from Boar 1339 were divided and preserved for different profiling methods, structural or molecular to ensure the whole organ was appropriately represented. These samples are freely available to researchers anywhere in the world and could revolutionize biological research. Pigs are more similar to us then you might think and are good disease models, however they are expensive to house and breed. It is thought this will also help to reduce the numbers of animals used in research all over the world by centralizing the samples and maximizing the scientific benefits of every animal used in research.

The ultimate value of a biobank is the integrity of the samples

The end of the article mentions that the ‘ultimate value of the biobank will depend on how much it is used’ but doesn’t mention that the ultimate value will wholly depend on the integrity of the samples stored.  Freezer malfunctions can occur which can have devastating consequences, for instance a freezer problem at Harvard University led to the destruction of a third of the world’s largest collection of autism samples More worryingly, evidence from a 2011 National Cancer Institute (NCI) survey found that 14.7% of respondents said they ‘often’ or ‘usually” cannot use a sample due to its quality (Masset, H.A. et al (2011) J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr).

Personalized workflows

Automating storage and sample processing will reduce some of these issues and provide confidence and reliability in each sample used for future research. New technology has made it possible to perform assays on much lower volumes of sample, maximizing the number of assays that can be performed. SPT Labtech can provide a workflow solution from storage to sample processing that is optimal for low volumes and still able to retain sample integrity.

James Craven, Global Head of Sample Management at SPT Labtech states “we work closely with our customers to provide the ideal, robust solution for an individual’s cold storage problem.” This is evident in our ongoing collaboration with MRC(UK). EPIC-Norfolk is a population-based prospective cohort study funded by MRC which recruited 25,000 men and women aged 40-79 years at baseline between 1993 and 1997 from 35 participating general practices in Norfolk. The blood samples used for DNA analysis were stored in comPOUND as part of a efficient and reliable set-up for long-term processing.

Reliable and robust storage

Our innovative use of pneumatic technology and the intelligent design of creating all moving parts outside the cold zone provide a storage system that is more robust and easier to maintain. Whatever biopsy sample you extract and whether your need is for -20oC or -80oC storage, our comPOUND® and arktic® stores have proved to be continuously reliable. They have a small footprint due to their modular design, but they can also be linked to process samples from up to 12 stores into one multi-well plate. This would greatly benefit this growing industry of genetically engineered repositories.

Sample processing

Providing a service for other researchers to utilize the biobank would also benefit from an automated sample processing system whereby samples can be tracked and processed without the need for several personnel and avoiding operator error.

SPT Labtech can provide a number of options for sample processing that are integrated into their sample storage systems. SPT Labtech’s mosquito® HTS (now known as mosquito LV) and mosquito® HV liquid handlers make it possible to reliably pipette large numbers of samples at low volumes ensuring confidence in your sample preparations. From a multi-wall plate samples can be individually cherry-picked using the single tip mosquito® X1.

The future biobank resource

As mentioned in the Nature article described, pressure is growing to reduce the number of animals in research making biobanks more attractive because they allow teams working on different organs and aspects of the disease to use the same animal. The LMU plans to extend its biobank to other genetic pig models as they are developed but as this is a slow process investing in large storage systems are not practical and are too expensive. SPT Labtech’s modular linked stores integrated with sample processing systems are an attractive alternative.