Approximately one billion biospecimens (blood, urine, saliva, bronchial lavage fluid samples and tissue biopsies) collected from patients and healthy donors are currently being stored in biorepositories and biobanks across the world. These biospecimens are stored in -80C mechanical freezers or in liquid nitrogen dewars for future research; specifically for molecular biomarker discovery and verification. The quality of the frozen biospecimens is defined by the stability of the molecular biomarkers they contain. If the biospecimens degrade during storage, the molecular information they contain is lost. Unfortunately, in most clinics and hospitals, biospecimen collection and processing protocols have not yet been standardized and therefore a significant percentage of the collected biospecimens have deteriorated even before they were frozen and stored. More damage accumulates during storage due to improper handling and unstable storage conditions. The main goal of this project is to develop a spectroscopic method to evaluate frozen liquid biospecimens non-invasively and non-destructively to screen out the millions of low quality biospecimens currently stored in biobanks. To reach our main goal, critical parameters of freezing that result in detrimental ice-macromolecule interactions yielding to structure, and activity loss in molecular biomarkers will be determined experimentally. The results will be interpreted with the help of a mathematical model, which the couples transport and thermodynamic phenomena induced by freezing. The information will then be used to develop a predictive algorithm to determine the quality of frozen biological samples using spectroscopic methods in a non-destructive fashion. Field-testing will be conducted in selected collaborating biobanks.
In this project, we aim to develop the science and technology to rapidly and nondestructively screen out the substandard and inferior biospecimens that are stored in biobanks across the nation. This will significantly cut costs and more importantly, stop the use of bad quality specimens in research. The scientific information generated in this proposal will also help develop biopreservation protocols that will maximize the stability of the biological specimens, and develop simpler, economical, and greener alternatives to existing preservation methods, decreasing the carbon footprint of biospecimen storage.