To advance paediatric medicine, doctors and scientists need to examine DNA, blood, cells and tissues from sick children in order to uncover the underlying cause and mechanism of their disease, and to develop new therapies. Collections of these samples are stored in biobanks – ultra cold freezer facilities – which preserve the collections for scientific analysis. The samples are so well preserved that live cells can be frozen and carefully brought back to life in the laboratory for further study. We call these ‘Discovery banks’ as investment in them will undoubtedly lead to new discoveries.
Biobanks are particularly valuable in studying childhood disease, as they allow us to track and trace the disease as it evolves in time in a particular child, as well as in a population of children. It also allows the study of a disease as it evolves with the growth of the child. Children are not small adults – they differ significantly from a biological perspective from adults – and using samples from children is the only way to ensure that the research is relevant to children. These biobanks are also vital in the move from ‘one size fits all’ to personalised medicine.