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Specimen Spotlight: ‘Matched Sets’ of Biospecimens Give Researchers Deep Insights

August 15, 2019

petri dish of cell culture

A disease is an abnormal condition, and to fully understand it, you need to compare abnormal biology against the normal. That’s the concept behind the matched sets of human biospecimens that we provide to researchers around the world.

The classic matched set is a tissue sample from a patient’s tumor paired with normal tissue taken from just outside the tumor margin. This set enables pathologists to compare the morphology of each specimen as they seek a diagnosis.

Researchers turn to the human whole blood

Since so many diseases today are understood from a genomic perspective, and since the normal genome can be sequenced from just about any tissue or fluid sample in the body, clinicians and researchers have more options. The default is now whole blood. So the new typical matched set is tumor tissue paired with whole blood.

Matched sets aren’t limited to pairs. We fielded a request very recently for a large collection of quad sets, including:

  1. Frozen fresh human tissue for histology,
  2. Archived formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) blocks for staining and immunohistochemistry (IHC),
  3. Human whole blood for DNA analysis,
  4. And peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) for use in cultivating cell lines.

Each set would be from the same patient, enabling parallel analyses and deep understanding of each patient’s biology.

Meeting the challenge of assembling matched sets of human biospecimens

As you can imagine, high quantities of such sets are nearly impossible to come by in biobank inventories. Even matched pairs are difficult depending on the disease and volume of sets a researcher needs.

Difficult procurement challenges like these are where iSpecimen shines with our access to millions of biospecimens, patients and data across a global network of healthcare organizations, including hospitals, commercial labs, biorepositories, clinical trial sites, blood centers and health information exchanges. When sets aren’t available, our networks are prepared with protocols, contracts and compliance measures in place for on-demand (“prospective”) collections.

Satisfying a customer with specific tumor sample requirements

We regularly conduct on-demand collections of matched sets for a biotechnology companies with very specific needs. We recently helped a company that is developing new cancer therapies  to rapidly procure specific types of frozen cancerous tissue, corresponding normal adjacent tissue, and matched sets of plasma, and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from specified patients.

Scale matters for specimen availability, and we’re building it. Specificity matters, too, so we’re creating new more precise ways for researchers to search, refine, select and procure the human biospecimens – including matched sets – that they need to advance medical progress.

Learn about the iSpecimen Marketplace where you can browse millions of richly annotated, de-identified tissue and biofluid biospecimens, in addition to hematopoietic and immune cell products. You can join for free and creating a login is easy. Request a quote or custom collection today.