MCW Tissue Bank – an expanding resource for researchers

MCW Tissue Bank – an expanding resource for researchers

September 11, 2014  |  Department News

Sept. 10, 2014 College News – Since its inception, the MCW Tissue Bank has strived to meet the needs of researchers. Saul Suster, MD, Chair and Professor of Pathology and founder and principal investigator of the Tissue Bank, envisioned the bank as a place to store blood and discarded tissue samples for future research so studies could start sooner and not be impeded by the collection process. Now, thanks to the combined efforts of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin (CTSI) and the i2b2 Cohort discovery Tool, it is possible for principal investigators and Clinical Research Coordinators to browse the samples already collected before writing and submitting a study.

“We hope that having the samples available will give our researchers a leg up when writing grants” said Coordinator Jason Kirkpatrick. As of August, nearly 6,000 patients have consented to donate, and more than 7,500 specimens have been banked. Samples are expected to be banked at an even higher rate now that the consenting process is approved for anywhere in the hospital.

Recently, new members have joined the staff to help manage the consent process, aid in specimen procurement and increase the hours of operation. “I’m excited to be processing DNA and RNA, but to be honest all science excites me,” said newcomer Research Technologist Ellen Schneider.

In addition to DNA and RNA, the bank is able to provide a variety of prepared samples including snap frozen tissue, formalin fixed paraffin embedded tissue and stained slides. Pathologists’ Assistant, Mollie Patton stated, “It’s satisfying to work with other pathologists’ assistants and pathologists to ensure quality samples and support clinical care.”

Tissue Bank employees work in conjunction with the OR and clinical staff to obtain specimens. Whitney Stibb, Laboratory Assistant reported, “I’m learning a lot about malignant, non-malignant and diseased tissue.” All kinds of patients may volunteer for the blood and tissue research program, so the array of specimen types is vast.

Matthew Dunham, Research Technologist specializing in blood and bone marrow said, “I’m pleased that we are able to provide such a wide variety of samples, which might not necessarily be available without a centralized tissue bank. I hope this service will award researchers the ability to study diseases and disorders not previously investigated due to lack of resources.” Currently, the technologists process between 100 and 350 aliquots a day, and those numbers are expected to grow.

An increasing number of women have contacted the bank to donate umbilical cord blood. “We’re working with Labor & Delivery to make that donation easy,” said Coordinator Allia Nelson. Brochures and posters in Obstetrics & Gynecology have sparked participant interest in the possibilities of cord blood research. Principal Investigators are already inquiring about how soon cord blood samples will be available.

“Our goal is to distribute samples to researchers in a timely manner,” said Tissue Bank Manager Mary Rau. Researchers from the Cancer Center and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics are working with the Tissue Bank to save time and money. While the bank is working with an Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin grant, the services are currently free and the aim is to stay sustainably affordable at the conclusion of that sponsorship.

The tissue request process requires filing a form on the MCW Tissue Bank website. Once the executive committee has approved specimen dispersal, researchers can retrieve samples on site.

If you have any questions, please call the MCW Tissue Bank staff, 805-8829.