Banking has been around for more than 4,000 years and involves saving and lending resources for personal and communal benefits. Biobanking, on the other hand, is a modern application of this historical concept, specifically in the field of medical research. Bio-repositories are essential in large-scale population studies, genomics research, and personalized medicine, leading to significant advancements in healthcare across various medical fields, particularly in cardiology.
In 2014, the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute Biobank (SCVI Biobank) was founded by Joseph C. Wu, MD, PhD, the Director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, with the aim of preserving patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines that are de-identified and cover a diverse range of cardiac diseases, healthy controls, and non-cardiac disease controls. This biobank serves as an expanding collection of cell samples, which is made available to researchers worldwide to support their scientific research endeavors.
According to Yan Zhuge, PhD, the Manager and Senior Research Scientist of SCVI Biobank, patients can donate their cells to the library with just one blood draw, provided they give their consent. Once collected, the sample cells undergo treatment to revert to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which have the ability to develop or grow into any type of cell in the body. Subsequently, these iPSCs can be differentiated into various types of heart cells such as cardiomyocytes, cardiac fibroblasts, endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, and cardiac pericytes. These heart cells are then utilized for research purposes.
The SCVI Biobank’s investment in iPSCs underscores its commitment to advancing cardiovascular research and improving patient outcomes. With the ability to generate patient-specific heart cells, researchers will be able to better understand the underlying mechanisms of cardiovascular diseases and develop more effective treatments. The future of cardiovascular research is looking brighter than ever before.
Furthermore, Zhuge says that the SCVI Biobank currently possesses more than 1,700 patient cell lines, wherein each patient’s Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMCs) have been reprogrammed into numerous vials of iPSC cells, containing over 1 million cells per vial. Zhuge has also shared that the biobank is continuing to grow and aims to gather samples from 10-15 patients every week, which equates to approximately 40-50 patients per month, throughout the entirety of 2023.
“Right now we are trying to recruit from patients with a variety of diseases, including Marfan syndrome, Down’s syndrome Turner syndrome, muscular dystrophy, cancer patients, hearing loss patients, and many others” Zhuge says.
Since cardiac health can be influenced by various disorders, illnesses, and environmental elements, utilizing a more diverse range of samples in experiments has the potential to stimulate novel medical breakthroughs. All of this can be achieved with just a simple blood draw, with no added danger to the patient’s well-being.
The SCVI Biobank has been consistently supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from the beginning, making it an extremely beneficial asset for scientists both within Stanford and beyond. Researchers are able to access the cells at no cost, apart from the expenses associated with shipping and handling. Those interested in obtaining cell lines can browse the Cell Catalog on the biobank’s website and fill out a Request for Service Application.
Over the past year, the biobank team has expanded, with leadership from Drs. Wu, Zhuge, and Karim Sallam, MD, who serves as co-director of SCVI Biobank and assistant professor of Cardiovascular Medicine. The team has brought on board four new members, comprising of life science researchers, a skilled specialist in cell differentiation, and a research coordinator for patient recruitment.
In the future, the SCVI Biobank aims to expand its collection of cell lines and reach out to more researchers both internally and externally to enhance its services.
Original article by David Preston at Stanford University.