Remarkable progress has been made in the past few years in the field of ophthalmology. These advances include development of novel tools for phenotype evaluation, identification of more disease causing genes, better understanding of pathology, and the development of new treatments including gene therapy and design of drug delivery modalities.
All of these call for further research and integration of research results into clinical practice to enable better patient care and prognosis. The recent surge in biological sample banking is partially due to the advances in understanding the biology of diseases and the promise of personalized medicine. The addition of new bioinformatics technologies and the availability of next-generation sequencing tools, as well as R development of new treatments and therapeutic methods through genomic medicine, have drawn attention to “Biobanking”, enabling researchers to readily utilize advances in the field.
Under the direction of Radha Ayyagari, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, and Linda Zangwill, Ph.D., Professor of Ophthalmology, the Shiley Eye Center initiated its BioBank last year with the goals of building a resource of readily available biological samples, with complete medical and family history and demographic information to accelerate research to prevent blindness. The staff of the BioBank has been collecting blood, tissue, and biological fluid samples from patients with ophthalmic diseases. In addition, sophisticated methods are employed to derive induced pluripotent stem cells from specific individuals for storage in the BioBank. These samples will be utilized to learn about predictors of diseases (biomarkers), effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of therapies, understand disease pathologies and developing effective therapies.
According to Dr. Ayyagari, “Within the Shiley BioBank, the entire process of banking the collected data and physical samples has been streamlined utilizing a systematized and state of- the-art secure electronic database with tools.” Demographic, ethnic, medical and risk factor history data are collected from patients on iPads; details of sample collection, processing, analysis and exact freezer storage location of samples are recorded in the BioBank database system. Each step of the process ensures that all patient data and samples are stored, tracked, and readily available to share with investigators, along with all linked clinical, demographic, genotype, and phenotype information while maintaining strict confidentiality protocols. The protocol that has been approved by the UCSD Institutional Review Board Committee includes all activities including the sample collection, sample processing and intended use and handling protocol.
The Shiley Eye Center BioBank will serve as a reference library for each patient. With readily available sample collection, it presents numerous opportunities for investigators to analyze existing data and conduct additional studies based on the most recent scientific knowledge. Robert N. Weinreb, M.D., Director of the Shiley Eye Center, believes that “In the future, the BioBank will enable investigators to learn about predictors of eye disease, treatment effectiveness and disease pathology, as well as provide critical new information for developing innovative treatments to prevent and cure blindness of macular degeneration, glaucoma and other blinding eye diseases.”
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