DoD could open huge military tissue archive

| March 8, 2012

The real question here is what is the value of these archives?  What condition are the blocks and tissue in with what I suspect has been suboptimal storage conditions for decades for minable RNA.  There may be some potential but add to the poor quality of the preserved tissue is the issue of likely scant clinical documentation, minimal or no long term follow up information and lack of longitudinal data short of a few registries.

By Patricia Kime - Staff writer Army Times

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Like the vast government warehouse in the closing scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the 32,000-square-foot repository at the Joint Pathology Center holds thousands of treasures — cardboard boxes stacked floor to ceiling on shelves, containing 32 million tissue samples from ill and injured service members dating to 1917.

That trove of medical detritus could soon be accessible to federal and civilian researchers.

Officials at the Joint Pathology Center, the Pentagon’s main laboratory, research facility and learning institute for pathology, said Tuesday they are working with the Institute of Medicine to determine how to open their tissue repository — the largest in the world — to some scientists.

Considered a national treasurer by researchers, the catalogue of samples holds clues that could lead to medical advancements, said JPC Interim Director Col. Thomas Baker.

“Twenty to 25 years ago, there probably wasn’t a lot of use for this tissue,” Baker said. “But now with molecular studies we can do now, the genoming sequencing … it will allow us to test these samples that will ultimately affect treatment and patient care.”

The paraffin-encased samples include bits and bobs from service members who breathed mustard gas in World War I, contracted the Spanish Flu in 1918, were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and encountered depleted uranium in the sands of Iraq.

There are samples from troops who contracted extremely rare diseases as well as thousands of common diseases — specimens Baker feels should be made available to researchers of other federal agencies if not academia.

“There’s a lot of potential,” he said.

A panel from the Institute of Medicine, the arm of the National Academies that makes recommendations to the federal government on science and health matters, is reviewing the pathology center’s policies and procedures to determine who should have access to the material, how the samples should be used and tested and the ethical considerations of granting access to patients’ biopsies and surgical jetsam.

The report should be out in June, Baker said.

The Joint Pathology Center was created by the 2008 Defense Authorization Act to replace the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, shuttered as a result of the 2005 round of base closures and realignments.

AFIP was housed on the grounds of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; the JPC is located in Silver Spring. Md., near the soon-to-be-opened National Museum of Health and Medicine and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

JPC has an annual operating budget of about $21.7 million, beyond funding from hospitals and the Defense Department’s Centers of Excellence. Its 36 pathologists and 46 support staff provide pathology consultations for military and Veterans Affairs Department health facilities and military veterinary clinics, as well as electron microscope services and pathology education and research.


Category: Pathology News

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