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What Happens to my Tissue?

Often doctors need to remove tissue as part of your treatment, for example during a surgical operation. Alternatively, they might take a small sample to help them find out what might be wrong with you (tissue collected for this reason is called a 'biopsy'). The samples that the NHS Research Scotland (NRS) Biorepository Network collects is material that is removed during a patient's routine clinical procedure, and which is surplus after all the necessary diagnostic tests have been concluded. Often blood samples may also be collected, if convenient and when appropriate.

Patients about to undergo procedures in which surplus tissue may become available are approached by Clinical Research Nurses to discuss this. The process of explaining the purpose of the Biorepository Network and seeking the patient’s permission to retain some tissue is termed obtaining authorisation or 'informed consent'. A Patient Information Sheet and consent form is provided to the patient.

Donating tissue and blood to the biorepository is performed on an entirely voluntary basis and we are very grateful to all patients who give their permission for us to keep a small amount of their tissue. Giving your consent for us to retain any surplus tissue, or withholding your consent, will not affect your care or treatment in any way and details of the donating patient are kept strictly confidential. All biological samples taken are labelled with an individual Biorepository Identification Number, unrelated to any other patient identifier (e.g. name, address, NHS number etc) so any researchers who may later receive the sample will not know the identity of the donor.

The Benefits of Being Involved in Tissue Donation for Medical Research

The NRS Biorepository Network provides investigators with a large and wide collection of material that can help determine, for example, what factors different samples of diseased tissue might have in common. This in turn allows researchers to devise better ways of diagnosing and treating diseases such as cancer and improves our understanding of what triggers such disease.

Before obtaining any donated samples, researchers must provide a written explanation of exactly what they intend to do with the tissue. A committee of doctors and scientists then assesses the merit of each request on scientific, technical, and ethical grounds. Only if they are satisfied that the research is well planned and of medical value is permission given for tissue to be provided.