A standards based ontological approach to information handling for use by organizations providing human tissue for research.


Tissue resources have become an important component of the infrastructure of institutions as well as companies performing biomedical research. Such tissue resources may be in the model of a bank, collecting a limited type of tissues and processing and storing them following a specific protocol. Such banks or archives may be associated with a clinical study or may function indepedently. An alternative type of tissue resource is utilized by many institutions and cancer centers. In this model, the investigator specifies the methods by which selected tissues are to be collected, processed and stored. In such a "prospective model", initially developed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Ohio State University in the late 1970's and adopted by the Cooperative Human Tissue Network in 1986, specific types of tissues are not collected unless requested by an investigator. At some sites, both a prospective and an archival (bank) model are followed. This article describes an informatics approach needed to support a prospective tissue resource. It is by necessity more complicated than a model which supports a tissue bank but also can be used by a tissue bank. Of great importance is the approach to vocabulary and common data elements needed to support the informatics system of a prospective tissue resource, especially if the informatics system is to be used by a variety of personnel with greatly varying educational backgrounds.