UCSF Aids specimen bank marks 20th year of operation

By Jeff Sheehy

Established in December of 1982 before a cause for AIDS was known, UCSF’s AIDS Specimen Bank has received over 184,000 deposits-characterizing the biologic history of HIV/AIDS in the San Francisco Bay area-and has supplied over 200,000 specimen portions to researchers worldwide.

“UCSF’s AIDS Specimen Bank is one of the oldest and largest HIV/AIDS repositories in existence.  Over its 20 years of operation, the Bank has not only served as a valuable resource for specimens, but has also acted as a vehicle for initiating collaborative research between scientists,” said the Bank’s director, John S. Greenspan, PhD, BDS, FRCPath, UCSF professor of oral pathology and dean for research at UCSF’s School of Dentistry.

UCSF’s Specimen Bank currently serves many cohorts and clinical studies based in San Francisco including the Options Project (a study of patients with recent HIV infections), the nationwide AIDS Cancer & Specimen Resource, and the Women’s Interagency HIV Study. In addition, the Bank is a core program of both the UCSF-Gladstone Institute for Virology and Immunology Center for AIDS Research and UCSF’s California AIDS Research Center, which have as a central priority facilitating multidisciplinary research that bridges basic science and clinical, behavioral, and epidemiological investigations. 

“Advances in understanding, treating and preventing HIV/AIDS are accelerated by multidisciplinary investigations, and the investigators’ progress often depends on the availability of key specimens.  Few behavioral or clinical researchers have the labs to process specimens and few basic science labs have the space and resources to store large volumes of specimens. The Bank has served a vital role as a central facility with the equipment and expertise to handle a wide range of specimens,” said Greenspan.
Bank specimens have included whole blood, serum, plasma, leukocytes, fresh frozen and fixed tissues, urine, saliva, semen, feces, cerebrospinal fluid, mucosal swabs, cytological specimens and cervico-vaginal lavage.

“Looking back over our 20 years of operation, it is interesting to note that one of our newest projects is advising the lead investigator in the design of protocols for specimen handling for a multi-site pilot study of organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients.  That represents quite an evolution in how we have learned to manage HIV/AIDS and also reflects the Bank’s expanding training and consultation role,” said Greenspan. 

For information on the Bank and advice on specimen processing and storage, contact the Bank’s assistant director, Yvonne De Souza, MS, at [email protected]