Biorepository opens doors to new discoveries

Published On 09/22/2015

Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is one of a handful of children’s hospitals nationwide to establish a research biorepository – a place where patient DNA is collected and stored for future research studies.

A person’s genes serve as the body’s blueprint, mapping out predetermined traits like eye and hair color, height and blood type, says researcher David Hains, MD, a pediatric nephrologist. Genes even influence what diseases a person might inherit and how he or she will respond to treatment. For scientists, genes can provide a goldmine of information.

biorepository sample photoThe project – called the Biorepository and Integrative Genomics (BIG) initiative – provides a unique opportunity to focus on minority health issues and disparities because of Memphis’ pediatric population, Hains said.

“We have a lot of children in the Memphis area that potentially could be overlooked by some of the bigger repositories,” said Hains. “By launching this initiative in Memphis, we ensure that everyone in the United States will be represented in genetic research. Furthermore, a unique population will likely yield unique results.”

All patients admitted to Le Bonheur Children’s are asked if they would like to donate a DNA sample to the repository. If they agree, DNA is removed from leftover blood from the patient’s physician-ordered blood draw and stored for future studies. This blood would otherwise be thrown away.

The BIG repository keeps the child’s personal information in a confidential file to create a link between the DNA sample and medical record. Researchers will be able to get de-identified clinical data and DNA samples to perform DNA-based genomic studies.

“The research repository will provide opportunities for researchers to discover new treatments, personalize medication regimens and focus on cures for future patients,” said Hains. “We are excited to be on the frontier of identifying factors and improving health in groups of individuals.”