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Best practice BioBanking of human heart tissue


This review provides a guide to researchers who wish to establish a biobank. It also gives practical advice to investigators seeking access to samples of healthy or diseased human hearts. We begin with a brief history of the Sydney Heart Bank (SHB) from when it began in 1989, including the pivotal role played by the late Victor Chang. We discuss our standard operating procedures for tissue collection which include cryopreservation and the quality assurance needed to maintain the long-term molecular and cellular integrity of the samples. The SHB now contains about 16,000 heart samples derived from over 450 patients who underwent isotopic heart transplant procedures and from over 100 healthy organ donors. These enable us to provide samples from a wide range of categories of heart failure. So far, we have delivered heart samples to more than 50 laboratories over two decades, and we answer their most frequently asked questions. Other SHB services include the development of tissue microarrays (TMA). These enable end users to perform preliminary examinations of the expression and localisation of target molecules in diseased or aging donor hearts, all in a single section of the TMA. Finally, the processes involved in managing tissue requests from external users and logistics considerations for the shipment of human tissue are discussed in detail.

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The SHB Executive is extremely grateful to Medical Advances Without Animals (MAWA) who provided major funding for the new nitrogen vapour tissue storage facility. The SHB is also grateful to the Discipline of Anatomy & Histology and the Department of Physiology for providing matching funding that matched the MAWA grant. A special mention must be made to recognise the contributions of the many PhD students who collected heart samples from the St Vincent’s Hospital Heart Transplant Program in the middle of the night over 26 years. Even though these students benefit from the award of their degrees and publications on human heart failure, their enthusiasm and many sleepless nights are very gratefully acknowledged. Currently, the SHB does not remunerate any person for contributing to the collection and of tissues. The considerable costs associated with collection and maintenance of the SHB are absorbed by the SHB. Recipients of tissue are asked to cover these costs, even those who pay the transportation costs of dewars to and from Sydney. Under these circumstances, it is not unusual for members of the SHB to be included either as authors of publications that arise, or by acknowledging their contribution in the appropriate section of these papers.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by the authors.

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Correspondence to Cristobal dos Remedios.

Additional information

Sean Lal and Amy Li are equal first Authors.

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Lal, S., Li, A., Allen, D. et al. Best practice BioBanking of human heart tissue. Biophys Rev 7, 399–406 (2015).

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  • BioBanking
  • Human heart tissue
  • Sydney Heart Bank
  • Heart failure
  • Healthy donor tissue