Jeremy Ohara

Jeremy Ohara

5 Ways to Conduct Research in the Health Field Using Biospecimens 

  Jan 17, 2024
Reviewed by Ravinder Kaur

Health Field Using Biospecimens 

Research is pretty much the core of the health field. From finding cures for diseases to improving how treatment is given to patients.

We can pretty much enjoy today’s great level of healthcare thanks to the hard work and research results of our predecessors.

Using biospecimens in research efforts is a pretty great way to get in-depth knowledge about something. 

So, what is a biospecimen?

Well, they are the things we collect from the human body like tissues, blood, plasma, urine, and even hair that can then be run through diagnosis and analysis.

It can help researchers get valuable information about various things.

Today, biospecimens are used for research and analysis in not only the medical fields but forensics too.

From detecting diseases to the cause of death, by conducting the right kind of research, scientists can even come up with cures for diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries. 

Well, in this article, we will focus on the use of biospecimens in the health field and 5 ways they can be used in different kinds of research.

Epidemiological Studies

Biospecimen repos are a pretty valuable resource if one wants to do epidemiological studies.

These studies are usually done to find the source of distribution, frequency, and the cause of many common diseases.

By using biospecimens from a repository, researchers can find out some specific biomarkers, genetic mutations, and other important information that can be linked to a particular disease. 

This data can then be used to pinpoint potential risk factors, come up with strategies that can prevent the spread, and improve on and come up with new treatment options.

According to a study, only 43% of participants were willing to donate biospecimens. However, 76% of participants were willing to donate to cancer research.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are more than just simple experiments. They are pretty central in helping researchers come up with treatments and cures for many different kinds of diseases.

Biospecimens can be used to identify potential biomarkers that can be monitored during a clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of a treatment. 

By using repositories, researchers can get access to huge libraries of bio-samples and data that can be used for this purpose.

Genetic Studies

Genetic studies have become a pretty major focus for many researchers in the past couple of decades.

By studying the specimens, scientists can analyze genetic mutations and identify potential genetic risk factors for diseases. 

This can help researchers in developing personalized treatment and prevention options for various genetic defects and diseases.


Pharmacogenomics is a study into the human gene that tells scientists how some people’s genetic markup can cause them to respond differently to different drugs.

They can use biospecimens to identify potential genetic variations that may affect an individual’s response to a particular drug. 

By analyzing this data, they can come up with custom treatments and options to help treat the individual according to their genetic makeup.

For example, for a cystic fibrosis patient, the disease is caused by mutations in the CFTR gene which can affect the CFTR protein.

This protein is usually responsible for the moving particles across the cells in your body.

Some mutations in the gene can also cause this channel to be blocked, in such cases, we need to use genetically modified drugs that will force this channel open and help the medicine reach inside the cells.

Biomarker Discovery

Biospecimens can also be used to identify specific parts of our genes that can be the cause of certain genetic defects or diseases.

These indicators are also known as biomarkers.

These chemicals can latch onto specific parts of the DNA or RNA that are responsible for certain traits in the human body. 

These are the measurable indicators of a disease or condition and can be used to diagnose or monitor disease progression. 

By analyzing biospecimens from a repository, researchers can identify potential biomarkers that can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

Biospecimen Categories and Sources

Biospecimen Categories and Sources

This diagram shows the schematic of changes in the proportions of major human biospecimen categories and the main sources of these biospecimens used by biomarker research over 4 decades. 

Major biospecimen categories described in terms of type and preservation formats include fresh, formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE), and frozen tissue biospecimens, and fresh and frozen blood biospecimens. 

The main sources of these biospecimens are indicated as follows; prospective biobanking (fresh tissue and blood), pathology archives (FFPE), and biobank inventories (frozen tissue and blood).

Utilize Biospecimen Providers for Your Research Purposes

Biospecimens are a pretty valuable tool for helping researchers in the health field.

By using these samples, researchers can identify potential biomarkers, genetic mutations, and other important information that can lead to the development of new treatments, prevention strategies, and increased medical knowledge. 

So no matter if you’re conducting epidemiological studies, going through clinical trials, doing genetic studies, pharmacogenomics research, or biomarker discovery, biospecimens can help advance your research by leaps and bounds.

Researchers, laboratories, scientists, and health professionals need to consider utilizing biospecimens from a repository as one of their research options.