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14 Jun 2012

DNA and tissue banks: keys to research

Illustration for article: DNA and tissue banks: keys to research
Banks of samples of biological material (tissues, cells, DNA, etc.), called biobanks, provide researchers with essential human biological material for their research. Some of them are dedicated to rare diseases, particularly neuromuscular diseases. They include biological resources obtained from voluntary and anonymous donations made by people suffering from these diseases. This is the case of the Généthon DNA and cell bank and the Myobank-AFM/Institut de Myologie tissue bank, both created by the French Muscular Dystrophy Association (AFM-Téléthon) and authorised and recognised by the French Ministries of Research and Health.

Organising collection and storage

Many collections of DNA and tissues from patients and members of their families were built up across France, at the initiative of an isolated researcher or department. AFM-Téléthon quickly understood the benefit and need for coordinated organisation to collect and store various biological samples (DNA, cells, tissue).

Since the 1990s, it has supported the constitution and operation of biobanks and organised sampling campaigns. These campaigns have targeted patients suffering from forty diseases (Huntington's chorea, pigmentary retinitis, multiple sclerosis, deafness, diabetes, psoriasis, etc.). This effort has accelerated identification of the genes which are responsible for rare and neuromuscular diseases.

DNA banks

The Généthon DNA and cell bank was set up in 1990, at AFM-Téléthon's initiative, to meet the laboratory's needs. It quickly became one of the biggest DNA banks for genetic diseases in Europe and is part of the European Eurobiobank network.

It is now used by the entire medical and scientific community and has had AFNOR NF S96-900 certification since June 2009.

Its storage capacity is 100,000 samples.
Since then, 14 other DNA banks have been supported by AFM-Téléthon: in Paris (Necker, Cochin, Pitié-Salpêtrière), Gif/Yvette, Marseille, Nancy, Clermon-Ferrand, Bois-Guillaume, Fort-de-France, Papeete, Algiers (Algeria), Damascus (Syria), Tunis (Tunisia), Louvain (Belgium).

Tissue banks

Myobank-AFM is a tissue. Created in 1996 by AFM-Téléthon, it is now a department of the Institute of Myology Association (AIM, France) and part of the European Eurobiobank network. On 10 May 2008, Myobank had 26,062 samples from 5,804 patients suffering from 147 rare diseases, mainly neuromuscular diseases.


The Plate-forme de Ressources Biologiques (PRB - biological resources platform) includes several biobanks:  Myobank, the Neuro-CEB tissue bank used for research into neurodegenerative diseases and the AP-HP tumour bank and cerebrobank.
The PRB was launched in June 2009 by the Institute of Myology, the Neuro-CEB economic interest group and the Assistance-Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP). It is at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital, mainly supported by AFM-Téléthon.

This platform provides research teams from France and abroad with a wide diversity of human samples of biological material, but above all with all the accompanying clinical, biological and genetic information. In 2009 it had more than 6,000 muscle samples, 150 cerebral hemispheres and 5,000 tumours.