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Information for donor families

What is ADTB?

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The Australian Donation and Transplantation Biobank (ADTB) is a Victorian biobanking program based at the Austin Hospital. A biobank is a place for storing donated human samples securely. Medical researchers may then apply to access the samples for ethically-approved research. The ADTB links organ and tissue donation with local medical researchers. The ADTB transports some donated samples directly to approved medical researchers, while others are stored at ADTB for a period of time until an approved researcher requests the samples.

The Australian Donation and Transplantation Biobank (ADTB) aims to improve opportunities for people to donate organs or tissues after their death for use in medical research, and to make it easier for researchers to conduct valuable research using donated organs and tissues. 

What does organ and tissue donation involve?

When a person donates organs or tissues for use in transplantation after their death, it is sometimes also possible to donate some organs or tissues for use in medical research. Samples from donated organs or tissues that are not suitable for use in transplantation may still be used to help people when they are used in research, by contributing to our understanding of disease or development of new treatments.  

Organ and tissue samples from deceased donors can be used to improve our understanding of human biology and disease processes. They are especially useful in the study of organs such as the lung and gut because it is not possible to sample these organs safely in healthy living people. Research using samples from deceased donors can improve understanding of human biology and disease processes and may lead to new treatments for common diseases such as infections (e.g. COVID-19, influenza), cancer (e.g. lung, bowel cancer), and autoimmune diseases (e.g. psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease). 

The benefits of donating to medical research

Human samples are crucial to advance medical knowledge and develop new treatments and vaccines. Currently, a lot of research is performed in animals but it is very difficult to apply that knowledge to humans because it is difficult to access human samples. This is especially important for diseases that involve locations like the lung and gut, as researchers cannot easily sample these sites in living people. The ADTB aims to make the gift of organ donation go further by providing much-needed samples to medical researchers to advance medical knowledge. A greater understanding of human biology and disease states may lead to new treatments and diagnostics for a broad range of diseases including infection, cancer, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. 

Ethics & medical research

In Australia, all research involving humans is reviewed by an independent group of people called a Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC). The ethical aspects of the ADTB program have been approved by the Austin Health HREC and the Australian Red Cross Blood Service HREC (the host organisation for DonateLife). The ADTB is conducted according to the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007). This statement has been developed to protect the interests of people who agree to participate in human research studies. The ADTB program is conducted in accordance with Australian laws, regulations and biobanking best practices.  In addition, all researchers who apply to access ADTB samples must first obtain their own project reviewed and approved by their organisation’s HREC and receive approval from the ADTB Sample Access Committee.

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