A robust and rigorous infrastructure for biospecimen collection is essential for acceleration of innovative translational research projects in pediatric rheumatology. The Pediatric Rheumatology Tissue Repository (PRTR) was established in 1996 and has been continuously supported by NIAMS funding to maximize the value of sample collections for translational research and minimize the burden on families and children. In 2017, the high value of the PRTR was recognized by its selection to serve as the United States biobank for the Childhood Arthritis Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA) Research Registry, the largest longitudinal study of pediatric rheumatic diseases in North America.
Drawing on decades of institutional experience, we have established standard operating procedures (SOPs) for consistent and reproducible collection of high value biospecimens, as well as the flexibility for customization to match the needs of a particular study. While investigators and early career scientists increasingly recognize the value added of translational research approaches, many lack the personnel and laboratory infrastructure to launch and support such projects.
The overall mission PRTR is to accelerate transformative discovery in pediatric rheumatology by facilitating access to valuable and high quality biospecimens for innovative translational research projects.
We collect, process, and maintain high quality biological specimens from patients with pediatric rheumatologic and related musculoskeletal conditions to support and grow the local research community. This includes facilitating the design and management of large-scale sample collections specific to investigator-initiated translational research that is associated with rich phenotypic information. This also includes ongoing collection of high-value biospecimens (new-onset disease patients and leftover fluid and tissue samples), and support for pilot biosample collections for future use including by early-career investigators with innovative research directions but who lack laboratory infrastructure. Current SOPs for collection, processing and storage have been implemented for biospecimens including:
- DNA for genetic studies; including chromatin from multiple time points for epigenetic studies
- RNA derived from whole blood, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), synovial fluid mononuclear cells or tissue for expression studies
- Serum and/or Plasma for biological, biomarker or protein studies
- Urine for biological, biomarker or protein studies
- Synovial fluid (SF) samples and Synovial tissue (ST) from biopsies or joint replacement
- Peripheral blood mononuclear cells, for biological and immunological studies
We expand the scope of biospecimen collection for pediatric rheumatic disease research nationally. Biosample collections through the PRTR have supported foundational discoveries in pediatric rheumatology over the past 25 years. To accelerate future discovery, we support development and implementation of advanced biospecimen collections suitable for emerging genomic approaches, particularly from non-blood tissues including ultrasound-guided synovial and kidney biopsy, bone marrow, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), and lung tissue. We leverage the partnership between the PRTR and CARRA to support protocol development, study design assistance, site training, and infrastructure development for more advanced biosamples processing done at individual CARRA Registry sites.
We optimize availability, access to, and use of biosample collections. For both local and CARRA collections, we implement near-real-time, aliquot-level, de-identified specimen data, coupled with a request form for local samples which will activate an approval workflow. Fully integrated phenotypic and biobanking information will continue to be searchable through RheumsMart, the PRTR’s secure online data mart. We will also upgrade biobanking tracking system for both local and CARRA collections to industry leading LabVantage LIMS.
Contact Grant Schulert, MD, for more information or to use our services.